(No longer in theaters)
20th Century Fox
Apr 27, 2012
In the blandly made but intense science-fiction psychodrama Sound of My Voice, Brit Marling plays Maggie, a cult leader who might or might not have traveled back from 2054 and a world in the throes of civil war. In the first sequence, Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius), a pair of undercover documentary filmmakers posing as new recruits, are told to strip and shower and then driven, blindfolded, their hands bound, to a tacky suburban basement, where they must execute a childishly elaborate handshake before the entrance—barefoot, an oxygen tank rolling behind her—of the alleged time traveler. Maggie speaks to her circle in soothing, deliberate tones about her arrival in our time, her memories of her own, and the need for her followers to shed their defenses and commit themselves to her. Later, she directs them to expel their old poisons, and they vomit on cue—all except Peter, who can’t let go until Maggie probes him, eliciting halting admissions of abuse, until he finally adds his puke to the sum of all puke. It’s hard to tell how far Peter and Lorna are being pulled in—they don’t know themselves and argue fiercely. They’re each part in and part out, but their parts are never in sync.
Marling wrote Sound of My Voice with director Zal Batmanglij, and here, as in Another Earth, the sci-fi is the hook but the focus is on humans thrown out of their solipsistic orbits by a glimpse of something larger. Batmanglij keeps the movie even-keeled, full of medium close-ups, underscored by ambient plinks and shimmers, with nothing to break the trance until a last scene that upends everything we thought we knew. The sudden finish is a slap-in-the-face but not a cheat.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Marling was a cult member herself—she has that vibe. Her glassy demeanor recalls Julia Roberts’s, but Roberts’s mask is a lid to contain her (prodigious) neuroses, whereas Marling’s helps her dole out her secrets selectively. She’s sly, this one. It’s hard to tell where she’s heading, but I have a feeling I’m going with her.