Most of us are obligated to enlist the advice of someone in a position of power and follow orders, but only in the most severe and unfortunate cases are those commands outlandish, unethical and immoral.
Compliance, a psychological thriller directed by Craig Zobel and produced by Tyler Davidson of Chagrin Falls, explores the complexity of relationships with authority figures and has been called one of the most riveting and controversial films of the year.
Showing at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque this month (Dec. 13, 8:30 p.m. & Dec. 14, 7:15 p.m.), the film hits uncomfortably close to home. The Ohio setting and a plot based largely on a true event in Mount Washington, Ky., has spurred heated debates and even audience walkouts.
"Blind obedience to authority is a psychological phenomenon that's at the heart of many atrocities throughout history," says Davidson, whose 2011 film, Take Shelter, earned plenty of award buzz, including the Critics Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. "Studies have shown that a majority of people will do things that compromise their moral judgment when instructed by an authority figure."
Starring Ann Dowd (Garden State) and Dreama Walker (Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23), the film tells the story of a caller who identifies himself as a police officer and convinces a manager and several employees of a fast food chain to detain, interrogate and assault a young female cashier in order to carry out what they think is an investigation.
"I'm attracted to movies that stay with you," Davidson says about his decision to get involved with the project. "I hope people are provoked to actively engage with this film."