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Film Club Discussion: Compliance 
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
peng wrote:
One thing I'm dissappointed (not for the wrong reason though) is that the "sexual" act she performed is depicted as a quick cut one scene. I mean, I don't want anything more graphic because it's already hard to watch, but when I read about that particular thing in the wiki I'm curious how anyone can be pushed that far to do that thing, and thought the film might attempt the build-up to it. As the movie is, the act is just very mind-boggling as it is in the news.


This is one thing I wanted to bring up. You see, I feel that jumping straight to the oral sex scene felt like a betrayal of the film's structure. Prior to this, the film goes out of its way to make every action a logical extension of everything that has happened before. The caller asks for something more extreme, the person on the other end questions it, he provides an answer, and then the individual complies to his demand. As bizarre as the jumping jacks or spanking are, we at least know exactly how we got there. But going from 'disciplining' the suspect to sexually abusing them is quite a leap, and I feel that by just cutting to the act limited the effect, and actually felt more exploitative to me. I'd have preferred it the other way around, with the caller convincing Van to make her perform the oral sex, and not actually showing it, instead having Sandra walking in on the aftermath of it all.

Because really, I just couldn't imagine how that conversation would have gone. The dialogue of the spanking scene was really pushing the believablity factor, and I just couldn't imagine how a writer could really make what followed work, besides depicting Van as more intoxicated and less sympathetic than in the film.

[EDIT] I originally wrote a sample of how I'd jokingly imagined how the dialogue would go, but then realized that since this actually happened and it's a sexual assault we're talking about, what I wrote was probably in rather poor taste.


Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:32 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
JamesKunz wrote:
And I completely disagree with the use of the word nihilism, to the point where I don't know if you know what it means. The movie is not nihilistic -- it is just very negative in its view of humanity.


You're right, nihilistic is not the right word choice on my part. That bolded part is what I should have said.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:47 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Blonde Almond wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
And I completely disagree with the use of the word nihilism, to the point where I don't know if you know what it means. The movie is not nihilistic -- it is just very negative in its view of humanity.


You're right, nihilistic is not the right word choice on my part. That bolded part is what I should have said.


Alright excellent we're agreed. And why is such negativity a bad thing? Don't we need some movies that take a deep look at the negative sides of humanity?

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:14 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
JamesKunz wrote:
And why is such negativity a bad thing? Don't we need some movies that take a deep look at the negative sides of humanity?


I don't think negativity is a bad thing. We need films like Compliance. Films that offer different looks at humanity. With that said, I don't think Compliance is a "great" look at a negative side of humanity, its more of an good/well made observation per se. It never crosses that line into greatness, and hinges itself on shock value rather than a great deal of substance. Not to mention its overly bleak tone.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:43 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
JackBurns wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
And why is such negativity a bad thing? Don't we need some movies that take a deep look at the negative sides of humanity?


I don't think negativity is a bad thing. We need films like Compliance. Films that offer different looks at humanity. With that said, I don't think Compliance is a "great" look at a negative side of humanity, its more of an good/well made observation per se. It never crosses that line into greatness, and hinges itself on shock value rather than a great deal of substance. Not to mention its overly bleak tone.


I agree that Compliance isn't great, but I think you're selling it a bit short. I don't think it hinges on shock value. I was feeling that creeping sense of dread roughly 7 minutes in, far before any of the more scandalous material rears its head, because the filmmakers did a good job trading on that Hitchcockian fear of being accused of something you haven't done. And when the sexual assault does come, it isn't "shock value," because it has been built up so well that it feels inevitable rather than tawdry and exploitative

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:58 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
JamesKunz wrote:
I agree that Compliance isn't great, but I think you're selling it a bit short. I don't think it hinges on shock value. I was feeling that creeping sense of dread roughly 7 minutes in, far before any of the more scandalous material rears its head, because the filmmakers did a good job trading on that Hitchcockian fear of being accused of something you haven't done. And when the sexual assault does come, it isn't "shock value," because it has been built up so well that it feels inevitable rather than tawdry and exploitative



I felt that dread too, but I knew it was coming, shit where else could it go? About and hour in the viewer can get a sense of.."He woudn't" but you know the worse is still to come. I think most people know it is. So I'm not sure I would compare it to "Hitchcockian fear", but I can see the correlation that your making. The build up is great, I won't deny that, but to me, and this is just me, certain aspects feel slightly exploitative. No it doesn't delve into full exploitation, but I just get that vibe from the film at times. I don't think the filmmaker is going for exploitation, but its content steers it that way almost automatically. You have a attractive female, being subjugated to sexual humiliation and ultimate dominance. This aspect feels exploitative to me, and I don't think thats too far of a reach.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:14 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
The term "exploitation" sounds too harsh for me because it infers a certain intention from the filmmaker, which I don't think was the case here. I don't think that simply having a subjugated female makes it "exploitative", but considering the subject matter, I think the director did an excellent work avoiding such a label.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:23 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Thief12 wrote:
The term "exploitation" sounds too harsh for me because it infers a certain intention from the filmmaker, which I don't think was the case here. I don't think that simply having a subjugated female makes it "exploitative", but considering the subject matter, I think the director did an excellent work avoiding such a label.


+1

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:31 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
JackBurns wrote:
I felt that dread too, but I knew it was coming, shit where else could it go? About and hour in the viewer can get a sense of.."He woudn't" but you know the worse is still to come. I think most people know it is. So I'm not sure I would compare it to "Hitchcockian fear", but I can see the correlation that your making. The build up is great, I won't deny that, but to me, and this is just me, certain aspects feel slightly exploitative. No it doesn't delve into full exploitation, but I just get that vibe from the film at times. I don't think the filmmaker is going for exploitation, but its content steers it that way almost automatically. You have a attractive female, being subjugated to sexual humiliation and ultimate dominance. This aspect feels exploitative to me, and I don't think thats too far of a reach.


But would the movie have worked without going there? The fact that these events actually happened, it's just an inevitable place that the story would have to end up going. And would the point of the film have been as strong if it didn't? Really, the only point to the film is displaying just how dark the places people are able to go to when under the influence of an authority figure. Without showing the utter depravity, the extremity of the situation, the point is kind of muted, especially when pulling it's punches from the actual events. I mean would the film be worth talking about if it had just stopped at the initial strip search? I don't think it would, since the film we're given it's mostly surface without a lot of depth beyond the direct actions of the characters.


Last edited by Awkward Beard Man on Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:33 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Thief12 wrote:
The term "exploitation" sounds too harsh for me because it infers a certain intention from the filmmaker, which I don't think was the case here. I don't think that simply having a subjugated female makes it "exploitative", but considering the subject matter, I think the director did an excellent work avoiding such a label.


I don't think the filmmaker is aiming for exploitation in Compliance, but as I've said, certain aspects just give off that vibe, to me at least.

And of course having a female suffer or being sexually humiliated doesn't mean it's exploitation. But to me, it feels like an aspect of exploitation ( of course there are a lot of aspects in films that could feel exploitative--I just don't think the subject matter helps in this specific situation). Again, I don't think the film is entirely exploitative, it comes close..very close, yet contains itself.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:35 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Awkward Beard Man wrote:
But would the movie have worked without going there? The fact that these events actually happened, it's just an inevitable place that the story would have to end up going. And would the point of the film have been as strong if it didn't? Really, the only point to the film is displaying just how dark the places people are able to go to when under the influence of an authority figure. Without showing the utter depravity, the extremity of the situation, the point is kind of muted, especially when pulling it's punches from the actual events. I mean would the film be worth talking about if it had just stopped at the initial strip search? I don't think it would, since the film we're given it's mostly surface without a lot of depth beyond the direct actions of the characters.


Oh, I think the film has to go where its going, I'm not disagreeing with that.. But the viewer can surmise where its going quite easily after a certain point.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:38 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
So you'd say the exploitation-like elements are inexorably tied to the subject matter?

I guess then the film did as tasteful job as possible to depict these elements without depriving them of their effect.


Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:44 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Awkward Beard Man wrote:
So you'd say the exploitation-like elements are inexorably tied to the subject matter?

I guess then the film did as tasteful job as possible to depict these elements without depriving them of their effect.


Exactly. It's just a vibe I get from the film. I think the filmmakers did a solid job of working around this, but the aspects are still there for me.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:48 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
I'm happy to see that there's some good discussion happening. I'll jump in.

Compliance is a good film, though it's one of those films where the plot doesn't matter at all. Koyaanisqatsi is an extreme example of this, a film with no spoken dialogue about the downsides of a technological world. Essentially an extended music video, I don't think anyone watches that film and thinks, "Gee, I wonder what happens next." Koyaanisqatsi is more content with observing minute details and critiquing global lifestyles than it is with having a beginning, middle, and end. I'm not sure what viewers of Compliance knew about it going in, but I have to assume that once it reaches a certain point, it's fairly obvious that things are not going to end well. This can be figured out through prior knowledge of the story it's telling, Compliance's status as a low-budget feature, or the direction in which narrative is going. Kunzie marks this point at 35 minutes. That sounds about right.

At that point (if not before), it's time to observe what else Compliance is trying to do. Those pointing out that it borders on exploitation have something of a point. Personally, I'm not sure it even comes close to that, but there's a little bit of horror movie here. There are the close-ups of the fries frying, the occasional cutaways to the customers who have no idea what's going on, etc. If the director were signed to make The Haunting in Connecticut 3, I wouldn't be surprised. The small moments of horror do a lot to add to the claustrophobia that the film wants to establish. As a fan of the genre, I appreciated those moments.

I'm entering my fifth season as a ride operator and power dynamics are pretty much always at play when you work in a theme park. That's how it is with a lot of jobs, but retail has it the worst. It's full of people who like to think they have the power to pull a trigger at any given moment, when most of the time they don't even think about the consequences. The manager depicted in Compliance is a fucking moron, but I'll be seeing lesser versions of her every day when I'm on the clock. Heck, as a supervisor, I can imagine various abuses of my power that I could probably get away with. How do I know this? I hear what others have done. It's kind of fucked up sometimes.

Much of Compliance's power comes from how much you can put yourself into the situation. I watched it with my mother and she wasn't buying it. "These people are so stupid! Don't they know their rights?" No, they don't. She has a point, though. As a movie, it's tough to accept everything given to us, even under the assumption that it's a true story. Even in films without a plot, character development is still important. When you have a film that intentionally goes against pretty much every single choice you would make if you were in that situation, it's tough to meet it at its level.

And there you have it: Compliance is a tough film. You have to work with it for it to do anything for you. Its desire is to be an effective study of what power can do to certain kinds of people. I think it succeeded in that regard. As a narrative... how could it possibly succeed?

I give it a B.

For the record, I thought the film lost some of its effectiveness when it chose to visually depict the man on the other end of the phone. However, once it does that, it plays around with sound in interesting ways so it gets a pass.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:09 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
If you can get past the whole hulk shtick (or use convertcase.net), FILM CRIT HULK writes a rather interesting article about the film. "The problem with Compliance is that it has to be a movie."


Last edited by Awkward Beard Man on Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:12 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Pedro wrote:


Much of Compliance's power comes from how much you can put yourself into the situation. I watched it with my mother and she wasn't buying it. "These people are so stupid! Don't they know their rights?" No, they don't. She has a point, though. As a movie, it's tough to accept everything given to us, even under the assumption that it's a true story. Even in films without a plot, character development is still important. When you have a film that intentionally goes against pretty much every single choice you would make if you were in that situation, it's tough to meet it at its level.


For what it's worth, the details of the real case are almost identical to the movie's

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:25 am
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Pedro wrote:
I'm entering my fifth season as a ride operator and power dynamics are pretty much always at play when you work in a theme park. That's how it is with a lot of jobs, but retail has it the worst. It's full of people who like to think they have the power to pull a trigger at any given moment, when most of the time they don't even think about the consequences. The manager depicted in Compliance is a fucking moron, but I'll be seeing lesser versions of her every day when I'm on the clock. Heck, as a supervisor, I can imagine various abuses of my power that I could probably get away with. How do I know this? I hear what others have done. It's kind of fucked up sometimes.

Much of Compliance's power comes from how much you can put yourself into the situation. I watched it with my mother and she wasn't buying it. "These people are so stupid! Don't they know their rights?" No, they don't. She has a point, though. As a movie, it's tough to accept everything given to us, even under the assumption that it's a true story. Even in films without a plot, character development is still important. When you have a film that intentionally goes against pretty much every single choice you would make if you were in that situation, it's tough to meet it at its level.



Some thoughts about this, now that you mention it, is that some people don't know their rights in certain situations; which is probably one of the reasons why Becky complied in the first place. Also, Susan mentions a couple of times before the strip-search that "corporate would insist on two supervisors being present" to justify bringing Marti, which means she probably doesn't know the rights of her employees.

The second reason why it all began is just to get over with. People want to avoid confrontations and further complications, which is the reasoning of the caller, Becky, and Susan when it all begins "Let's just get this over with". People sometimes go out of their way to avoid further complications to their lives, even if it means relinquishing some rights. And in the eyes of Susan, she felt like she was helping Becky to avoid jail.

Of course, it all built up from there, but those are some thoughts on how it all began.

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:03 am
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
What do you all make of that last scene where the interviewer is asking Susan some questions, and as they put the video of the rape, she casually changes the subject? Her dialogue was kinda awkward.

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:20 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
I unfortunately just got around to watching the movie last night, so I'm jumping in late.

A lot of the time when we watch horror movies, or movies about people in horrible situations, we like to say things like, "I'd never do that!" or "He/She should just do that instead!" It's usually the hallmark of a bad, implausible movie. Compliance would be one of the worst offenders of this sort of implausibility if we didn't know it was based on true events. And really, it wasn't just based on true events, it was virtually exactly what happened. The film is frustrating because of how ridiculous some of the actions are, yet they're real choices that real people made. It's one of the very few movies I've ever seen where being based on real life not only benefitted the story, but was the sole reason why the movie was believable.

As for why the narrative focuses on this case and not others? Well, because this one was the perfect storm. It's the case study for just how far people are willing to let themselves be taken. The answer obviously isn't pretty, but how could it be? Inserting some kind of "hopeful" message, no matter how slight, would have come across as false and artificial. Sure, most normal people wouldn't let themselves be pushed that far, but we already know that. That's why so much of the movie pushes the bounds of plausibility in the first place. We don't need anything to reinforce that idea. The premise of the film has already done that.

I liked the choice to show the caller. First, as Kunz and Thief said, we see him as a normal guy as opposed to a pervert, which makes the whole ordeal a little more unsettling. I can understand why a pervert would enjoy making people do these things, but I don't fully comprehend what someone who's seemingly normal would get out of doing this. Sure, they enjoy the power, but that seems like a whole lot of work and risk just to get a power trip. Second, from a more practical standpoint, it's a way for the film to avoid becoming tedious. Frankly, I was getting a little bored with the caller relaying messages between Sandra and Becky. Granted, that's how the rest of the story proceeds, but it's at least presented a little differently.

I wouldn't call the movie exploitative in the slightest. It deals with difficult subject matter, but it's done tastefully. We're shown that nudity and sexual abuse is a part of the story, we see how those things are allowed to take place, but it's never done to shock or glorify. In fact, the movie moves the camera away from nudity for the sake of nudity mulitiple times. When we hear the caller convince Van to spank Becky, I don't think there's anything more we need to know about how the rape takes place. It's not shown because doing so, to me, would border on exploitation. It's obvious that Van has completely given himself over to the caller at that point.

Someone mentioned earlier that they disliked the shot of the police officer in his car. Kunz said his wife saw it as a way to show how short the drive was for the police. I agree, and more to that point, it was also used to show what an actual cop would do in the situation as opposed to the nonsense the caller was spewing. A real cop isn't going to have a fast food manager conduct his investigation for him, he's going to hear about what's going on and get his ass there. Part of me feels bad for Sandra being put in that situation, but another part of me is angry at her for being too fucking stupid to put some pretty obvious things together. Corporate would insist on two supervisors being present for a strip search!?!? In what world would they be ok with employees conducting strip searches on other employees!?!? It doesn't just take a gullible person to believe those things and comply, it takes someone who isn't intelligent and has a fear of rocking the boat. I think it's important that Sandra is older and not a young teenager. This is his career, not just some job for extra spending cash. She has a much more vested interest in her job than everyone else who works there.

As a film, it's fairly limited by it's story, but that's also the only reason it works as well as it does. It's a good movie, one that really digs into the psychological reasons why people can be so willing to drop all personal responsibility. There's a justification for everything, by everyone, but really the only person who did the right thing was Harold the custodian when he put a stop to it all. When you know something is wrong, you do something about it, you don't stand idly by and convince yourself of reasons why you shouldn't get involved, or why you should go along. The film walks that difficult line between feeling sympathetic for someone as a victim while also being angry at them for not having the intelligence/backbone to stand up for themselves and others.


Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:24 pm
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Post Re: Film Club Discussion: Compliance
Thanks for jumping in Pete!

PeachyPete wrote:
It's not shown because doing so, to me, would border on exploitation.


I think it shows how close the film comes to exploitation. The filmmaker takes the time not to linger to long on the situation because in doing so it would be flat out exploitation. To me, this shows the the film does in fact have exploitative aspects, if it didn't why would there be a need to work around it? Again, I'm not saying its exploitation, but the aspects are there--woven into the context.

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