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Compliance


compliance poster

The effects of authority on seemingly normal civilians are frightening. The Stanford Prison experiment shows this with a simple test being taken to extreme lengths. The Wave shows this when an assignment becomes an autocratic, prejudiced system. One of the most intriguing books I’ve read was called Ordinary Men written by Christopher Browning. In it, a group of normal individuals commit heinous acts at the behest of the Nazi regime. The capability for moral depravity, much like the capability for kindness and love, knows no bounds in the human condition. Additionally, the level of stupidity, naivety, and ignorance amongst humankind is equally infinite, as we see in Compliance.

Grade:

C

Based on true events, Compliance follows the story of a prank taken too far with the help of some less than knowledgeable people. A man, pretending to be a police officer, calls a fast food location about a “theft” that occurred involving a young, female employee. As the manager acts accordingly, she begins reacting to odd requests, such as a strip search of the girl, and never once questions the authority on the other side of the phone. The story becomes even more infuriating when the woman brings her fiancé into a room with a nude, teenage girl, scared and too defeated to defend herself anymore.

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In addition to the completely corrupt storyline, Compliance has a number of issues. It’s a movie you are intended to hate. When I first read of this film a few months back, many viewers supposedly walked out early on as a result of intensely difficult scenes to watch; I don’t blame them in the slightest. You are inconceivably uncomfortable when watching this film. The camerawork and artistic style do nothing to detract from the fact that we are watching a mild form of torture that becomes a more serious form of torture by the end with sexual assault becoming rape very quickly.

Objectively, Compliance is not a very good movie. The acting is subpar at best and actually takes you out of the film at points. Scenes that should be disturbing and capturing your ire actually become softer with misplaced and poorly delivered dialog. Acting only becomes bad when you notice it is happening, and this movie is a prime example. Furthermore, the writing takes the story beyond the realm of feasible intelligence. While the events depicted all happened, including the sexual assault and rape, you find it difficult to imagine such an incredible level of stupidity it would take for someone to obey a faceless man on the phone demanding you undress a girl because she’s hiding money “up there.” It’s insane, and yes that is an actual quote, not my way of providing a euphemism.

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That being said, Compliance achieves its goal. You are meant to be aware of the lengths people will go to if they believe an authority figure is providing the orders, and you are meant to notice the lengths people will go to manipulate others. This Manti Te’o situation becomes more plausible as you watch Compliance because you are made aware of the unfounded trust we place on strangers. There’s no stopping someone if they are doing what they believe is the right thing to do.

The other feature of the human condition that is portrayed, albeit in odd fashion, is the mundane nature of the people involved. These are unassuming people who, before this incident, had almost nothing special to say for their lives. The perpetrator has a nondescript job, a house, and a family. Nothing about that indicates a perverted sociopath willing to buy a calling card just to play a trick on someone. The most absurd thing about it is that he, in literally no way shape or form, gets to see the result of his actions. He is equally trusting of those on the other side of the phone.

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In any case, I’ve said it a thousand times before and I’ll say it MOST applicably now: Compliance is not for everyone. No, I am understating it. Compliance is only for those curious in seeing the degenerate nature of our species. Maybe that says something about me in that I sat through the whole thing, but it was honestly very difficult. Frankly, you will be hard pressed to find a more frustrating film by way of plot, execution, and character traits.

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  1. I have been debating whether or not to see this for a while now. Instincts say there is implausibility to people obeying a strange person on the phone but at the same time I think their are people just as strange out there to buy into it which is why I want to see it. But when I heard about the sexual assault/rape I really did not want to see it because I hate having to watch that in a movie. If they allude to it occurring that’s one thing but I cannot stand having to watch it. But that is the effect the filmmakers want in those instances. So I would probably be one of those you would not recommend this to haha

    • Since you seem relatively interested I’ll be straight with you. You don’t directly see her in that position. It goes from her being spanked to you seeing her knees and hands on the ground while he’s sitting in a chair. As I imply what happens, so does the film. So you aren’t directly seeing it, but in a way you are. I guess you could say that part was tastefully done, but that’s obviously a relative term. As you say, that’s the effect the filmmakers want.

      It’s a tough one to judge, really. By that point in the movie you’re so pissed off at the rest of the characters you feel as defeated as the girl. It takes an emotional toll; that’s for sure. It’s certainly not as intense or visual as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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