I have never done well with authority figures, mostly because I have never just accepted something at face value and have a tendency to question, and if I’m honest stamp on and smash the rubble of rules I deem to be discriminatory, outdated, or just plain stupid.
As a result I have been labelled a trouble maker, rebellious, and one big bitch by teachers, employers, and peers for not being able to keep my mouth shut when I disagree with why things are ‘the way they are’. I always made a point of educating myself on my rights, both legally and ethically, and believe me that there is nothing more odious to a person in a position of power than an individual with an excellent question, with a point well made, that they can’t give you a satisfactory answer by way of placation.
There have been many experiments over the years (most notably the Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments) that have proven individuals are more prone to carry out illegal or unethical behaviour if instructed to do so by an authority figure. The whole ‘just following orders’ mantra given by the Nazis doesn’t seem to hold much weight to us now, but we have all been in situations where the people around us have gone along with things they were unsure of, or not quite comfortable with, due to a fear of reprimand, or because they felt powerless against someone whom they have been indoctrinated to respect or fear.
Between 1991 and 2004 a series of incidents dubbed the Strip Search Prank Call Scam (catchy, I know) were reported in more than 30 states across America. The caller would target mostly fast food outlets, sometimes grocery stores, impersonating a police officer or someone associated with the company with a story about a crime supposedly committed by one of their employees that responder is required to assist in. Directing events over the phone, a female employee would be targeted and strip searched by another employee (usually a manager), degraded and/or sexually abused in the name of some conceived threat the victim may pose (drugs/theft/sexual criminality).
The victims followed orders without much resistance, in most of the cases reported, until, in Mount Washington, the incident this film is largely based on, a number of people were involved, and after discovering the call was a hoax, an employee managed to *69 and obtain the callers telephone number, which eventually led to an arrest.
Compliance is an extremely difficult film to watch, and when you finally reach the finish line, you feel like you have been through something surprisingly stressful, but definitely worth it. Subtlety shot, with an intimate, incredibly claustrophobic feel to it, Ann Dowd’s portrayal of the manager under pressure, and Dreama Walker as the young victim are some of the most outstanding and powerful acting I’ve seen in a very long time.
This film is absolutely guaranteed to provoke a reaction in whoever is watching, whether it be revulsion, frustration, anger, or disbelief at the fact that these things really happened. It is an important film, which I feel has a real message in today’s society.
You will not enjoy this film, but you cant deny that it is an incredible piece of cinema, with some stunning performances, that you will remember for a long time.
The apathetic attitude toward politics, and unquestioning complicity with corruption and the capitalist pecking order is creating uneducated, foolish sheep that are too scared to stand up for what they believe is right. These things actually happened, and they happened because they were too scared to say no to someone who could have held a little bit of power.
Know your own mind, and know your rights. It’s better to rock the boat and be unpopular, than to have your worst fears confirmed and live with the consequences.