Sound of My Voice
Both a movie about fakers and a movie that seems to be faking it, Sound of My Voice is the sort of film that David St. Hubbins would say toes the “fine line between clever and stupid,” often managing to work against all odds. The first feature by Zat Batmanglij, collaborating with Another Earth’s breakout star Brit Marling, the quasi-genre film operates as a sort of puzzle with several missing pieces. This kind of loose concern with the audience grasping the whole narrative puts it in the same league as other indie sci-fi breakouts like Donnie Darko and Primer, though going all out and calling Sound of My Voice a sci-fi film would be dishonest.
School teacher Peter (Christopher Denham) convinces his wife Lorna (Nicole Vicius) to help him go undercover to film a documentary about a rising cult surrounding self-proclaimed time traveler Maggie (Marling). Maggie has the appearance of a sweet young woman, clad in angelic white and hooked up to an oxygen machine, but has a vicious temperament that Peter soon finds himself at the end of – and perhaps respecting. Being a cult leader and all, Maggie’s intentions remain unclear, but more interesting is how increasingly distant Peter and Lorna are from the audience. For a documentary filmmaker, Peter doesn’t seem too concerned with capturing any footage. Lorna seems simultaneously tempted and repulsed when invited by a cult member to fire a gun in the woods.
Muddying the narrative further are sequences of a strange little girl and a paranoid woman, who inevitably intersect with the lead characters without ever revealing what’s really going on. Sound of My Voice doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to. Marling and Batmanglij claim that there is a definitive answer to the many questions the film brings up, but the piecemeal way the film is constructed suggests that they may not be entirely truthful – or perhaps the film just isn’t as well thought out as it could have been. Still, the sum is better than the parts because of, rather than in spite of, the film’s obtuse sense of mystery. It’s not perfect, but it’s a more curious and ambitious experiment than most first-timers would dare deliver.