Can’t quite remember where I first heard about Compliance.  Perhaps the bumpf for the London Film Festival? The idea, if you can call a plot closely based on real events an idea, was compelling. It was a last-minute decision and I headed to Curzon Soho straight from work. As usual there were loads of people in the cafe and bar. I always envy them their apparently carefree airs of repose. A phrase I’d heard on the Film Programme beforehand was resonating in my mind, namely that the film showed an “art-house condescension towards the blue-collar workers in the fast food outlet”. I’m not sure that’s really true.  A more valid criticism would be that the secondary characters are rather thin.

As often happens when uncomfortable scenes are shown, and there were plenty of those here, people were laughing. I think one can interpret this laughter as a response of amazement that people were going along with the ridiculous demands of the caller. Several couples walked out, before the worst abuse started. Something I have never done and don’t think I would ever do. Following the Blue Velvet approach, the most harrowing events take place off-camera.

Some have said that it would have been better as a documentary.  I don’t agree, because while the film is flawed and perhaps a little simplistic, the dramatisation of the fast-food manager and how she comes to go along with the requests, even enforcing them independently, is more powerful than a factual description would be. The performance of Ann Dowd in that role is very good.

I do think that the explicit linkage with Milgram is overblown. For a recent take on that, I recommend a Radiolab episode from last year.

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