Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Friday, 10/13/2006, 11:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre
IF ANYONE COULD be said to be playing a starring role in this year’s festival, it would have to be crystal meth. From the meth-fueled violence of Gas to the on-screen addictive behaviors on display in the documentary Rock Bottom, Tina makes herself felt in many different ways.
In Compound, the title literally has two meanings. First, there’s the compound of crystal meth, as the ingredients for the drug are periodically listed on screen as a part of the story. Second, there’s the compound in which an old-money Filipino family and their servants live, separated from the threats of violence and terrorism outside their gates.
Into that second compound comes Jay, a bisexual man who has left behind his wife and boyfriend as he tries to make sense of his own life. His new landlord, Virgilio, is an increasingly paranoid businessman on the brink of failure, obsessed with the terrorists who target the nation’s wealthy. Virgilio’s wife is obsessed with status and plastic surgery, while their daughter turns in her isolation to imaginary friends. To make matters more complicated, there are unanswered questions about the family’s relationship to the housekeeper, Romina, and the handyman, Big Boy.
Compound plays as a thriller, as Virgilio’s secret meth addiction leads him to greater heights of paranoia, and the movie borrows from such sources as Rear Window to ratchet up the tension and uncertainty with the audience. The film plays games with what’s real and what’s not, leading up to a hallucinatory ending that may be real — or perhaps the truth lies in another ending.
That ambiguity actually plays against Compound, which finally ends up feeling like a display of violence without meaning, to the point of nihilism — everyone pays the same price in the end, regardless of their role or responsibility. That may be the case in the real world, but here it undermines much of what’s come before.
Like the ingredients of the drug that are flashed on the screen, the experience of Compound adds up to something that’s at times kinetic and sensory and compelling, yet ultimately leaves you feeling empty. — SB