By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Brit Marling turned herself into an Indie film force with her beautiful, engrossing writing debut (and first big starring role) Another Earth, and it looks like she’s found a similar spirit with director Zal Batmanglij, who she teamed up with on Sound of My Voice and next year’s The East.
Sound of My Voice tells another slow-burning, character-driven story with a hint of sci-fi conventions, this time following a young couple (Christopher Denham & Nicole Vicius) who infiltrate a secretive cult based around a charismatic young woman (Marling) claiming to be visiting from the future. Will they fulfill their goal of exposing her to the world as a fraud, die trying, or find themselves seduced by the incredibly persuasive leader?
Plus, Steve Jobs appears to be alive and well, if a bit transformed
The film starts with an excellent cold open, throwing you right into things right along with our protagonists. We discover the inner workings of the cult right along with them, and when we first meet the leader, it’s with similarly skeptical eyes.
That’s what makes Marling’s performance such an excellent one. She seduces and convinces us along with the protagonists, and we have the same doubts and newfound confusion running through our heads as she does. She’s soft-spoken, but confident, and finds a way to come off as both sinister and savior at the same time.
My Theory: This is all what happens after Marling gets to Earth II
So, when we finally get around to our climax and ending, it really seems like anything can happen. Marling and Batmanglij write and direct this masterfully, building tension and suspense organically to a pay-off that doesn’t spoon-feed you, and gives you plenty to talk and think about afterwards. This is how you make a compelling film on a shoestring budget, folks.
This is another way
And this film sure doesn’t look like it was made on the cheap. It is gorgeously shot and edited, and more controlled and natural than Another Earth’s sometimes over the top aesthetic. The score is also a great complement to the beautiful imagery, and it’s evident all around that the folks behind Sound of My Voice have the potential to make some truly great films for years to come.
I’m going to stop short of calling this perfect. There are some stereotypically indie flourishes in the score and setup that don’t annoy me, but that I could see annoying others. The chapter structure, with Lars Von Trier-style intertitles, in particular feels inessential.
Sound of My Voice is a beautifully made, mesmerizing tale of obsession and belief. It’ll be exciting to see what Marling and Batmanglij come up with for The East, although from the sound of things, it might pretty much be this again, plus Juno.
Take a Drink: for every flashback or narration
Take a Drink: whenever someone watches or refers to footage or filming
Do a Shot: whenever you start to swallow the Kool-Aid
Do a Shot: for fratboy handshakes