Compliance (USA, 2012)

Directed by Craig Zobel

With Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp.

Playing Sept. 20, 7 p.m. at Empire Studio 12 – St. John’s

First, we need to disclose that this taut psychological thriller was based on a real series of events and, second, that it is sometimes really difficult to watch. It all depends on your capacity to watch people being utterly submissive—compliant—in the face of authority, no matter how randomly assigned or self-appointed that authority is. Low budget and shot with deliberate close-range, claustrophobic framing, COMPLIANCE puts ordinary people into extraordinary situations. The disturbing action happens in a Midwest fast-food restaurant, where a call from a disembodied authority making accusations leads to a young woman’s utter degradation. Yes, that sounds icky and it is, but consider the title of the film and step back to understand it as an experiment in human behavior. There is a Blair Witch Project feel to the escalating horror, but when you are reminded that these events actually happened—and continue to happen—you are likely to ask some larger questions about sex, class, and power. Did we mention that COMPLIANCE is really hard to watch (at times)? Just remember, IT’S ONLY A MOVIE! Not a feel-good one, at that.