“Every life is death, and most deaths are suicides. Some are just more gradual than others.”
When a young couple decides to infiltrate a cult led by a woman purporting to be from the future, they are unprepared for what they uncover.
Sound of My Voice is the 2011 psychological thriller directed by Zal Batmanglij, co-written and starring Brit Marling as Maggie, Christopher Denham as Peter, and Nicole Vicius as Lorna.
We begin with a ritual. The ritual is the induction into the group. Peter and Lorna are blindfolded, taken from place to place, made to disrobe and clean themselves. They present copies of their records. They’re told not to make any sudden movements.
To see her is to believe.
Peter and Lorna have infiltrated a cult.
Stashed away somewhere in the Valley, the cult meets in the sparse basement of a large home. Maggie, the cult’s charismatic and beautiful leader, is from the future; the year 2054, to be exact. A fact that is permanently marked on her body in the shape of an anchor tattoo which bears the number “54” beneath it.
As the couple is brought further into the group, Peter begins to lose sight of his original goals, his beliefs. The line between fact and what Maggie would have him believe begins to blur. To make the group strong enough to face the future she insists is coming, Maggie continually tests them, demanding ever extreme behaviors to prove their loyalty.
Even without the time traveling aspect, the cult mentality/psychology theme of the Sound of My Voice is fascinating, absorbing. Marling is engrossing as the enigmatic, forceful Maggie, a time traveler who wakes face down in a tub of water with no memory of who she is. From a future riddled with civil war and food is scarce, Maggie says she has journeyed back in time to prepare a select band of people. But … for what?
Sound of My Voice is Marling’s second feature film as screenwriter/actor and already she is proving herself a serious talent.
The film is richly nuanced with a set of complicated characters whose curiosity count among the lesser of their flaws.
Shot in small spaces, tightly framed with quick cuts, there is a sense of claustrophobia when the characters are engaged in the cult activities. Director Batmanglij creates an excruciatingly intimate atmosphere where the characters are constantly challenged and forced to face themselves. Inside this world of Batmanglij’s meticulous crafting, Marling provides a performance that demands not only the attention of the case but the audience as well, effortlessly transitioning from gentle teacher to forceful leader in order to advance Maggie’s mysterious agenda.
The slow unraveling of Peter (Denham) is mesmerizing. Denham’s Peter is a weak, suggestible sort who throws himself into his investigative work on the cult without a thought to his own safety. It doesn’t take long for Maggie to see him for what he is.
Marling’s screenplay and performance in the sci-fi drama Another Earth is reflected and expanded upon here as she delves further still into concepts of identity and perceptions of reality.
Originally begun by Batmanglij and Marling as the first in a trilogy of films that would follow Maggie and her followers, I haven’t been able to find any information on whether or not the filmmakers are moving forward with a sequel. If you’ve heard or read anything, drop me a line and let me know.
Featuring solid performances from its entire cast, strong direction, and an enthralling storyline, Sound of My Voice is a first rate psychological drama that unfolds at a comfortable pace. This little independent gem will spark your mind with its superb little ending twist.
Making of Featurette:
Interview with Brit Marling:
Interview with Christopher Denham:
Official site: Sound of My Voice
Wiki: Sound of My Voice