Review: Sound Of My Voice
PLOT: A wanna-be documentary maker (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend (Nicole Vicius) infiltrate a cult led by the charismatic Maggie (Brit Marling)- who claims to be from a post-apocalyptic future.
REVIEW: SOUND OF MY VOICE was one of two sci-fi tinged indie dramas featuring Brit Marling to appear at Sundance 2011. While ANOTHER EARTH ended up getting the bigger push, for my money, SOUND OF MY VOICE is far superior. While it was probably a little too thematically similar to MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE to get much of a push last year, Fox Searchlight has finally put SOUND OF MY VOICE out there. Anyone who's interested in a slightly more cerebral tale than you're likely to get anywhere else this summer should give this a try, as it truly feels to me like an indie sleeper waiting to happen.
When I say that SOUND OF MY VOICE is tinged with sci-fi, I may be misrepresenting it somewhat, as depending on your interpretation, this may or may not have anything to do with someone coming from the future. Part of what makes the film believable is that Maggie is indeed a charismatic figure, who I could easily imagine would sway the minds of more than just the gullible. It helps that Marling has always had an otherworldly, ethereal quality about her- but to her credit, she plays Maggie squarely in the middle so that any interpretation could be viable.
Director Zal Batmanglij, who also co-wrote the film with Marling, never takes the easy route by stacking the deck either way. I really couldn't say whether Batmanglij and Marling's intention was to make us believe Maggie's tale or not- with liberal clues being dropped in either direction. In fact, it's not even clear whether the protagonist played by Denham believes her, and the ending is highly ambiguous. Denham, who's also a director (having made the excellent HOME MOVIES a few years ago), is very good playing the guy who's essentially a surrogate for the audience. Midway through, there's a scene where Marling manages to coax him into an emotional breakdown that's so severe, he begins to vomit uncontrollably. As his partner, Vicius plays it a little more definitively realistic, with her obviously not being fooled by Maggie- especially when she breaks out singing 'Dreams' by The Cranberries, and claims it's from the future (although her explanation as to why she thought it was is relatively convincing).
Despite it's obvious low-budget, Batmanglij has made a good looking film, with the low-key DV lensing by Rachel Morrison being particularly effective. It also has a strong, sparse soundtrack by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, that's very intriguing, and compliments the slightly sinister atmosphere of Maggie's cult meetings.
While the ambiguity of the film will drive some folks nuts, I enjoyed seeing a film that allowed me to walk away from it with my own interpretation. While it's probably a little too unconventional to ever cross over in a big way, I still think it's something a lot of people will enjoy- and I highly recommend checking it out.