The Sound Of My Voice (2012)
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Starring Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius and Brit Marling
It’s hard to talk about this little flick from Zal Batmanglij (don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him, he has only made one other indie film besides this) without giving away too much. A young couple are trying to make a documentary about an underground cult in Los Angeles, led by a woman named Maggie who claims to be from the future. To say more would ruin the experience of watching it.
Brit Marling is a wonderful standout as Maggie, the beautiful and beguiling cult leader. She is charming, mysterious and has an infectious personality about her, able to hold the attention of the room effortlessly, but also intense as she both lifts her followers up and breaks them down. I’m surprised she hasn’t had a more visible career. This film is one of only a few film credits (the other being The East, also directed by Batmanglij, and an episode of Community).
The Sound Of My Voice is slow but intriguing right from the first minute. Who is this woman? What are her goals? Is she for real or just a con woman preying on desperate people looking for answers? These questions will keep you guessing and engaged, as do other seemingly unconnected events shown throughout the film.
Unfortunately, a lot of these questions won’t be answered, and you will come away feeling somewhat unsatisfied. The film feels incomplete. As though either through lack of time, budget, inexperience on the part of the director or some other reason, it has more to say. Many threads are left hanging. Whether that was intentional by the filmmaker to force you to examine the film more thoroughly and make your own conclusion, I cannot say.
So don’t expect definitive answers. The ending, which is actually quite jarring when it comes, is left almost entirely open to your own interpretation. It’s a film that bares examination and rumination to arrive at any kind of conclusion, if any at all. Is it worth your time? I think in this case the journey is worth more than the destination.
Incidentally, if you like films about cults that keep you guessing as to their nature check out Believers, directed by Daniel Myrick (of The Blair Witch Project fame).