VOD film review: Sound of My Voice
James R | On 28, Sep 2014
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Cast: Brit Marling, Lorna Michaelson, Christopher Denham
Watch Sound of My Voice online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“Somewhere in the valley, there is a woman living in a basement. She’s actually amassing followers…”
That’s Peter (Christopher Denham), documentary filmmaker and spectacle-wearer. He’s determined to find out what he can about an underground movement led by Maggie (Brit Marling). She’s from the future. Or at least, she says she is.
It’s that little touch that tips Sound of My Voice from low-key cult drama into indie sci-fi, a move that gives Zal Batmanglij debut feature a timbre all of its own.
Hoping to expose Maggie’s mysterious time-traveller, Peter and his partner Nicole (Lorna Michaelson) infiltrate the group. Blindfolds. White robes. Secret handshakes. The works. Once inside her secret basement, Peter uses the hidden camera in his specs to catch everything on film. Or at least, he says he does.
The problem comes when he starts to believe Brit Marling’s magnetic leader. In all fairness, it’s impossible not to. Friendly, welcoming but also vulnerable, Marling’s presence is completely beguiling. By the time she’s taken off her hood and started singing, you’ll be clawing at your socks to make your own blindfold too.
Of course, Nicole’s buying none of it. And Marling’s screenplay (co-written with the director) adds in just enough doubt to keep you guessing. Can she really prove she’s from the future? The way Maggie fields questions from her sceptical followers is superbly handled; cunning, but innocent, defensive yet simple.
It’s that balance that sends Peter and Lorna’s relationship off-kilter. Sure, the couple’s back stories are a little contrived (gotten out of the way in two rapid, almost clumsy, voiceovers), but they are an engaging pair to identity with: Vicius is believably indignant and calm while Denham’s restrained performance erupts in a nail-biting outburst in the film’s best scene – a moment that steals gross-out cinema back from lazy rom-coms and gives it a new, raw immediacy.
It’s hard not to mention two other films at this point. After Electrick Children and Martha Marcy May Marlene, it’s odd to think that three of 2012’s best movies all involved cults or religious movements. Through music, Rebecca Thomas caught the excitement and feeling of belief – the power of naive faith as it begins to mature. Sean Durkin traded in the fear of manipulation, using masterful editing to capture the dread of a fragmented mind. Taking leaves from each book, Sound of My Voice uses an atmospheric soundtrack and Peter’s perspective to convey another emotion entirely: wonder.
As we delve deeper underground, the charismatic performances and tight pacing keep everything enigmatic enough to intrigue – ludicrous claims are verified one moment and questioned the next. The result is a flood of questions that rushes to a heady climax of Prometheus proportions. And, just as your brain gets a handle on what’s happening, certainty is pulled away from you once again. Curiosity is replaced by awe.
You’ll wake up the next day with Sound of My Voice still ringing in your ears.