Sound of My Voice (2011) – Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Movie Review by TylerDFC
There is a tendency in the mainstream to immediately disregard a movie if there fails to be closure at the end. More than anything, more than being challenged, most viewers seem to only want to be entertained. Tell them a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end and they will come back for the same cookie cutter plot points again and again. It’s those movies outside the norm that challenge the viewer and are where the innovation in cinema is taking place. Sometimes the contract we enter in to with a filmmaker is one sided. In some cases they are saying to us “I’m going to tell you a story, make of it what you will.” It’s those kinds of movies that can be the most exciting for a viewer. Sound of My Voice is exactly that kind of movie.
Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) are amateur documentary filmmakers infiltrating a cult in the San Fernando valley. The movie starts with Peter and Lorna being taken to a secret location to meet the enigmatic leader of the cult, Maggie (Brit Marling). Maggie claims to be from the year 2054, sent back in time to save a chosen few from the coming civil war. As Peter and Lorna get more involved in the cult they begin to lose focus and start to question if they are still making a documentary or if they actually believe Maggie’s stories.
It’s a cliche but to say more would ruin the movie for you. Sound of my Voice is an exceptional character study and incredibly tight story. At a mere 1 hour 24 minutes run time there is not a wasted scene or line of dialogue. It is not a movie you want to try to figure out but simply experience. The excellent performances from the entire cast are anchored by Brit Marling’s stunning portrayal of the charismatic Maggie. Clothed in a soft white dressing gown Maggie can be beatific and gentle one minute, angry and manipulative the next. As the cult revolves around her, so does the movie. Her charisma and intensity is so powerful you find yourself wanting to believe Maggie yet always the question is there: is she for real?
Director Zal Batmanglij filmed the low budget Sound of My Voice with a lot of tight close ups, keeping the viewer in the room with Maggie and her followers. His use of steadicam helps keep the viewer off balance and just as nervous and confused as Peter and Lorna. Along with his co-producer and co-screenwriter star Brit Marling, he has crafted an exciting and haunting thriller that takes its time telling a story but leaving the conclusions up the viewer. It’s impossible to say enough about Brit Marling’s performance. It truly is extraordinary and one of those that comes along every once in a while making you wonder how in the hell she could have been overlooked for an Oscar for her role.
For fans of challenging cinema, Sound of my Voice is not to be missed.
*One final note, I do not recommend watching the trailer. It gives away too much and Sound of My Voice is best experienced blind.
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