A big fan of ambiguity and toying with her audience, Sound Of My Voice gives Brit Marling another chance to double up as scriptwriter and actress, excelling in both and providing a stellar bedfellow for 2011’s Another Earth.
Not as strong as her tale of a duplicate Earth, but equally as fascinating, Zal Batmanglij’s film tracks young couple Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) as they work to infiltrate a local cult who have become obsessed with a strange young woman called Maggie (Marling), whose claims about her identity and the state of the world are cause for an equal amount of doubt and faith.
Choosing hidden cameras as their means of recording a documentary exposé, Batmanglij’s film works subtly in harmony with this, presenting itself in ten chapters and using narration to save any expositional dialogue. This narration also serves to provide us with all we need to know about Peter and Lorna, fooling us into thinking we know more about them than we ever truly do.
The cult we are invited into use childish secret handshakes and are forced to eat vomit-inducing entrées, letting us share Peter and Lorna’s changing opinions on whether this is a group of people who need saving or whether they are beyond any kind of rational help. With this gentle shock factor reflecting the lengths some people are willing to go to just to cling onto something that gives them faith and meaning, the uncomfortable position the audience is put in works perfectly in sync with Peter and Lorna’s feelings when initiated into the group.
Sound Of My Voice works a little like Martha Marcy May Marlene without all the weird, ritualistic sex – as far as we get to see. But, where Sean Durkin’s film may pack a bigger punch, Sound Of My Voice works better on a much smaller, claustrophobic scale, with most of its action restricted to one room.
Maggie, the power source at the centre of this basement setting, is in turn manipulative and mesmerising, never easily letting on who she really is and often incredibly intense for someone so quiet and beautiful. Impossible not to be completely sucked in by both character and actress, the film is undoubtedly Marling’s and her flawless, ethereal beauty makes Maggie somebody you who completely believe could charm any group of people.
Seamlessly fusing multiple genres, Sound Of My Voice proves once again why Brit Marling is one to watch in regards to her writing talent, with clearly a lot more to offer. Mixed with an underlying sense of melancholic and apocalyptic dread, you are never too sure what to expect, with the sci-fi tones ensuring the atmosphere remains rather unsettling, even when joining Peter at his day job.
Beautifully shot and very much in the same world as Another Earth with its grainy gauze, Sound Of My Voice is a very haunting invitation into the surreal world of one group of peoples’ source of faith and doubt.