If Compliance wasn’t based on a true story, it would be seedy, voyeuristic and horrific. Because we know, from the outset, that this actually happened – it becomes slightly less seedy and voyeuristic, but remains utterly horrific. Two couples walked out of the film when I watched it at the Hackney Picturehouse yesterday. Three couples walked out when a friend went to see it last week.
Set in a greasy American fast food restaurant, Craig Zobel’s film takes its plot from the real life Bullitt County McDonald’s case. See here.
Becky (Dreama Walker), an employee at the fast food restaurant, is taken to the back room by Sandra (Ann Dowd) – her manager. An Officer Daniels has phoned to inquire about a customer complaint involving Becky. Through careful questioning, he encourages Sandra to reveal various (important) pieces of information about the restaurant and its employees.
Officer Daniels explains that Sandra will need to strip search Becky to uncover the money that has allegedly been stolen, unless Becky would prefer the alternative – to be taken to a police cell, where she’d be kept overnight.
I won’t explain what happens next. But the trust that is placed in this unknown man, posing as a policeman, instructing Sandra and Becky, is phenomenal. It is, apparently, our human instinct to follow orders from an authority figure without really questioning them – when under duress.
There are two psychological experiments looking at what happens ‘when you put good people in an evil place. Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph?’
Compliance uncovers a handful of shocking truths –
1. Some people have twisted alter egos that you might never know about
2. It doesn’t take much to persuade certain people to perform wholly immoral acts
3. Many of us really do behave like animals when it comes to society and hierarchy
This isn’t a film that I’d recommend, as it’s awkward and shocking – and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for sexually grotesque situations to be dramatised into bordering-on-titillating films, as this makes it prey for sexual predators. A documentary would have been favourable; bringing this story to the screen, but in an (arguably) more honest, less Hollywood manner.