Sound of My Voice

Starring: Christopher DenhamNicole ViciusBrit Marling Directed by: Zal Batmanglij

I remember the first time I saw the trailer for Melancholia, I thought, “Looks like an interesting concept for a low-key sci-fi film.  And then, I remember seeing a trailer for Another Earth and thinking, “Damn, seems a lot like the concept for Melancholia.”  I was so wrong on so many levels.

But that’s another conversation for another time.  What’s important is that my initial curiosity for Melancholia piqued my curiosity for Another Earth.  I ended up seeing Another Earth way before Melancholia and loved it.  A scant year after Another Earth was released, Sound of My Voice came out.  And while the film certainly didn’t share the same plot threads as the other two films, it still gave off an eerily similar vibe; science fiction-y, low-key, ambient, atmospheric, and, once again, starring Brit Marling.

The story revolves around journalist Peter Aitken (Christopher Denham), a fledgling journalist trying to get a big break by infiltrating an underground cult with the help of his girlfriend Lorna Michaelson (Nicole Vicius).

Getting to the cult meetings involves thorough showering, dressing in white gowns, strange meeting places, blindfolded van rides, and some of the most intricate secret handshakes known to man.  The cult leader, Maggie (Brit Marling) claims she woke up one day in a tub in an abandoned apartment where she had been magically transported from the future.  The year 2054, to be exact.

She promises that she will take them back with her if they all jump through the many hoops she puts in front of them, including blind faith in her extraordinary claims, eating and regurgitating fruit, days of starvation, and eating worms.  Just to name a few.

As the time to make the journey to 2054 comes nearer and nearer Peter and Lorna start to wonder about each other, adding an interesting layer to the film.  Each of them, at one point or another, believes the other may actually be falling under Maggie’s spell.  And all of this, of course, is shrouded in mystery.  IS she telling the truth?  IS she making it all up for some more sinister reason?

I enjoyed this film on a number of levels.  First off, I like Brit Marling, although I could see how some might not.  She is an interesting actress.  In both films she plays a similar character; a somewhat lethargic, doe-eyed lead who, despite her languor, still manages to be enigmatically charismatic.  In that way, in particular, she is the perfect lead for the film.

In addition to excellent casting, the film works well on a number of other levels.  The way Peter sometimes seems to lead Lorna parallels the way Maggie leads the cult.  Peter, who starts out the most incredulous of the group, is often times seen wearing a gown that is a slightly different shade than the rest of the group.  A nice color scheme to reflect his skepticism.

The dialogue.  While some of it does seem ridiculous, one must suspend their disbelief to some degree.  For example, the idea behind eating and then regurgitating the fruit -- that they were purging themselves of previous wrongs done by them and to them in order to purify themselves – seems a little silly, especially since it just HAPPENS to coincide with the day that Peter ingests a tiny microphone so he can get audio of the cult.  Mmmmm….contrived.

But, then again, it is a cult, and I would rather the filmmakers take a stab at creating a personality rather than what I saw in the woefully overrated Martha Marcy May Marlene where the main reason we seemed to be given as to why the members were wooed to joining was because the leader (John Hawkes) knew how to play guitar.

By and large, though, the script is well written, dialogue and all.  There are a lot of loose ends at the end of the film, A LOT, but the film is short, under 90 minutes, and I enjoyed it enough I would consider watching it again to see if I could piece the puzzle together.

Written by Ryan Venson