Compliance Screen 18 articles



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  • Zobel's unwillingness to push his inquiry beyond its most basic formulation, his compromising of the setup by playing his hand too early, and his misguided positioning of the viewer in relation to the material ensures that the only challenge the film provides is on the level of audience endurance.

  • Ultimately, the problem with Compliance, apart from its rather clear disdain for its working-class subjects, is the fact that on some level its makers seem to themselves believe that "this actually happened" is an adequate defense for anything and everything the movie can dish out. In turn, it implicitly asks its viewers to believe in its virtues because of its connection to real events.

  • The decision to eventually make "Officer Daniels" more than a voice on the phone, however, was horribly misguided, and suggests, along with the damp squib of an ending, that Zobel never really worked out what the point of dramatizing this story was.

  • For much of its running time, Compliance is highly manipulative. Zobel waits a long while before revealing who the caller truly is and where he's calling from; once he does, as the characters continue to follow virtually every command with little protest, their gullibility clashed with the caller's gleeful smirking is scream-at-the-screen infuriating.

  • The movie miscalculates by cutting away to the caller at home, even if that does mean seeing him played by an unflappably weaselly Pat Healy. While allowing us a privileged perspective doesn’t make the film any less gripping, it does give viewers an escape hatch from the confusion on the other end. Compliance inevitably raises the question of how moviegoers themselves would behave.

  • Really needed to be super-stylized (not even Haneke; it needed, I dunno, Werner Schroeter or something), an ode to the sinister power of the disembodied voice; as it is, the realistic style with a patina of strangeness - a glob of soft-focus here, a sub-Philip Glass score there - just makes you think about plausibility. Dowd, as a woman whose instinct is always to try and ingratiate herself, is outstanding though.

  • Zobel bobbles a few of the details: Too soon in the film do we learn that the call is a prank—whereas withholding the info might have made us dupes, too—and some of the nudity comes within shouting distance of exploitation. But the movie’s frightening momentum can’t be denied; indeed, it’s the whole point. When critical thinking is reduced to numbered choices on a value menu, we’ll turn ourselves into the final meal.

  • Compliance lets neither men nor women off the hook. Obviously, its narrative involves men raping Becky, directly and by proxy. But men are also the only characters who rebel against Officer Daniels, while Sandra greases the wheels of Becky's degradation. We'd all like to think we'd say no to tyranny; Compliance shows how hard it is to tell authority figures to fuck off.

  • The already notorious reputation of Compliance, which bowed to wildly mixed reception at Sundance, owes to the fact that it keeps steadily and pitilessly redefining the concept of “the worst” for almost its entire duration. Where other films travel along an arc, Compliance closes like a vise: it’s a compact, pressurized piece of work.

  • The film articulates its own allegorical accuracy, turning a perverted tragedy into a case study on authority. The film, in fact, radically questions the inherently positive attributes obedience is usually associated with, showing how its unquestioned implementation can easily degenerate into sheer horror.

  • There's one heartbreaking visual highlight when Sandra's ordered to take Becky's clothes out to her car for "safekeeping." Like a Gerry outtake, she marches to her grimy, dust-covered 2000 Subaru, leaves the clothes and throws out a dirty disposable cup sitting on the seat. She's trying to impress someone who isn't even visible, and the camera follows her every mournful trudge.

  • As in his feature debut, The Great World of Sound, Compliance possesses a disarming sensitivity, along with a wafting sorrow at its core that seems reflective of America in microcosm. Zobel is on a mission of understanding: How could such pranks (over seventy, as the end titles tell us) have occurred at various chains across multiple states and many years? Who are the individuals on the other end of the line? What were they thinking?

  • To watch a dramatic spectacle is some respects to be implicated by it and, despite a heavy handed, blame-assigning closer, “Compliance” differs from most ordeal films by offering no catharsis.

  • Payne's own instructive middle-American patois ("I don't think it's right to see a lady like this in the buff") reveals Compliance's most effective idea: that it's not just the absolution to a vague concept of capital-A authority that threatens to demagnetize an otherwise decent person's moral compass, but the way that loose American values like decency and folksiness can work to further obscure that authority.

  • Compliance resists simply wallowing in our collective vileness, and mercifully avoids that pat movie cliché of implying audience complicity in voyeurism and abuse... Through nuanced performances and a thoughtful script, Zobel asks us to recognise subtle reasons for each character to behave the way he or she does, and demands that we acknowledge the ambiguous responsibility for what is effectively a rape by proxy.

  • A world away from Zobel's previous Sundance feature, Great World of Sound (2007), this tense, extraordinary follow-up presents no easy answers and forces the viewers into being complicit with both the muddled manager and the pervert pulling the strings. It's designed not just to force audiences to question the big-picture, how-could-this-happen aspect of it all, but to make viewers uncomfortable while doing so.

  • Raising troubling questions about the influence of class and education on our response to authority, Mr. Zobel cares less about charges of exploitation than about making us feel the monstrousness of the behavior on view.

  • To depict this thorny situation with acuity, Compliance becomes something more than an effective tale of everyday horror, emerging as an urgent indictment of the greatest danger in our Western democracies: the tendency of citizens to willingly give up their critical capacity.

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