Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Review: ‘Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation’ Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner & More Review: ‘Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation’ Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner & More Relativity Puts 'Jane Got A Gun' And More Up For Sale As They Fight Off Bankruptcy Relativity Puts 'Jane Got A Gun' And More Up For Sale As They Fight Off Bankruptcy Zack Snyder Says Batman Has A "Crisis Of Conscience" In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Plus New Pics Zack Snyder Says Batman Has A "Crisis Of Conscience" In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Plus New Pics Venice 2015 Line-Up: 'Equals' With Kristen Stewart, 'Beasts Of No Nation,' 'The Danish Girl,' More Venice 2015 Line-Up: 'Equals' With Kristen Stewart, 'Beasts Of No Nation,' 'The Danish Girl,' More Watch: 4-Minute Tribute To Lars von Trier's Masterful Film Work Watch: 4-Minute Tribute To Lars von Trier's Masterful Film Work New 'Deadpool' Images, Ryan Reynolds Distances Himself From 'X-Men: Origins' New 'Deadpool' Images, Ryan Reynolds Distances Himself From 'X-Men: Origins' TIFF Images: Emma Watson In 'Colonia,' Brie Larson In 'Room,' Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' And More TIFF Images: Emma Watson In 'Colonia,' Brie Larson In 'Room,' Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' And More Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Watch: Blu-Ray Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Plus 11 New Clips From The Film Watch: Blu-Ray Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Plus 11 New Clips From The Film The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances Watch: New Trailer For 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Blu-ray Release Explores Who Killed The World Watch: New Trailer For 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Blu-ray Release Explores Who Killed The World Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie

BAMcinemaFest: Craig Zobel Talks Conversation-Starting True-Crime Tale 'Compliance'

Photo of Cory Everett By Cory Everett | @modage June 28, 2012 at 2:45PM

As many festivalgoers know, attending a film festival can be both an exhausting and rewarding experience. Fortunately for those NYC-ers who don’t have the stamina to attend Sundance, Cannes or SXSW, BAM has culled some of the best of those lineups and selected a few dozen favorites, which are now playing during BAMcinemaFest. One of the films that we caught at Sundance that hasn’t eased it grip is Craig Zobel’s “Compliance.”
0
BAM Compliance

As many festivalgoers know, attending a film festival can be both an exhausting and rewarding experience. Fortunately for those NYC-ers who don’t have the stamina to attend Sundance, Cannes or SXSW, BAM has culled some of the best of those lineups and selected a few dozen favorites, which are now playing during BAMcinemaFest. One of the films that we caught at Sundance that hasn’t eased it grip is Craig Zobel’s “Compliance.” The film follows a fast-food employee (Dreama Walker) who is accused of theft and repeatedly subjected to demoralizing acts by her overworked supervisor (Ann Dowd), all at the behest of an authoritarian phone caller. The film made waves at its Sundance premiere because of a few shaken audience members who, during the post-screening Q&A, asked why the filmmaker had even made the film in the first place. Which is pretty powerful stuff considering the film contains no onscreen acts of violence whatsoever. The Playlist spoke to Zobel about "Compliance" back in January and recently got another chance to chat with the filmmaker in advance of the screening this Friday at BAM. After the screening, he’ll appear for a Q&A along with cast members Ann Dowd, Bill Camp, and Ashlie Atkinson, and if previous screenings are any indication, audiences will be eager to talk about it afterwards. Zobel spoke to us at length about his hesitation to take on the story and the varying audience reactions on the festival circuit. Some director-approved spoilers follow.

Compliance
I was trying to explain the movie to some friends the other day and having kind of a hard time explaining what it's about without feeling like I was giving too much away. So how would you describe the movie to someone who hadn’t heard of it?
I’d give it away.

That’s what I ended up doing too. But initially I wasn't sure if giving away the conceit would impair the experience.
Right. I struggle with that too and my producers really struggled with it. They all thought it was important that [the caller’s identity] not be something you know right away. I find it hard to talk about it. What’s stressing about it is relieving someone’s question that, yes, it's not real. Like, I recognize that it sounds preposterous, and yes you're smart enough in your analysis of the story I’m telling to assume that it is a prank phone call. That also came down to the decision why I let you see that after in the movie.

I could’ve done the “Phone Booth” thing where you never see the guys and it’s just a voice and you never see his face. And I’m like, "That’s not what’s interesting to me about it." What’s interesting to me about the story is the psycho identifications of how these situations happen. The reason I put the actor [onscreen] in the movie I didn’t want the audience going “That’s not a real cop.” I wanted [to acknowledge], "Of course, you are right. It’s not a real cop. So let’s not think about that anymore. Let’s talk about something else."

Compliance
How did you decide when in the movie that you were going to make that reveal to the audience?
That was actually really hard to decide. We were actually simultaneously shooting the caller and people in the background, so I could have put it in at any point actually. And we tried that, so we played with a bunch of different things. It happened to fall out to where I reveal it in the screenplay that we put in the same scene. The reason that the scene is a useful scene to reveal the caller....two people can get into a thing where it seems crazy but this is the first time a real third person is put on the phone and is interacting with him.

And I felt that was a good time to be like "let's start thinking about the bigger [picture]." The move out of the headspace that two people can be convinced of something pretty easily, but when you get into three people or four people -- I just felt like I wanted to like have the audience thinking about that. And although Kevin [Philip Ettinger] is kind of a minor character in the film, in some weird way I connect with him the most than any other characters. He is the [first] person who knows something is wrong but hasn’t said no. That was my first entrance to understand how something like this could happen. I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve felt like we weren’t doing something the right way. When making films and working as a first AD, I’d [think] "We shouldn’t be doing this," [but] I wasn’t stopping it from happening. I wasn’t saying,"We’re not doing this. Stop."

This article is related to: Craig Zobel, Compliance, BAMcinematek, BAMcinemaFest, Interviews


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates