One of my favorite movies last year was a no-budget science fiction film called Another Earth, starring and co-written by Brit Marling, who has emerged onto the indie scene in the past year as a sudden new talent. At that time, she had made two very small sci-fi movies, both picked up but set for a staggered release. The second film she co-wrote and starred in, Sound of My Voice, will unavoidably be thrown up against the first movie in comparison. Thankfully, it’s an even better film, and one of the best small science fiction movies since Moon.
Sound of My Voice opens with a young couple, Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) on their first night of initiation into a cult. They’re driven to a location blindfolded, made to scrub down and put on white robes, tested on secret handshakes and brought into the group of followers. All this ritual is to prepare them to meet the leader: Maggie (Marling), ethereal and seemingly sickly, on oxygen as she comes in and tells them her story. Maggie apparently woke up several years ago with no knowledge of who she was, drifting on the streets until she began to remember. Her memories, however, were of a horrible time of war and famine, and didn’t make sense for the world around her. Finally, one day, she claims she realized the truth: she is from the year 2054, sent back in time to prepare a small group for a coming war that will devastate civilization.
Peter and Lorna, coming home from their first meeting, are quickly revealed to not be who they claim: they’re both would-be filmmakers hoping to create a documentary about cults, and it’s obvious that they both realize they’ve struck gold. Not only have they made their way into an obvious cult, but their leader is seemingly absolutely nuts, and amassing an array of followers. Now all they have to do is play along and get the material they need, but playing along means spending more and more time with Maggie, and in true cult leader fashion she’s dangerously capable of getting people to believe even her ridiculous story of time travel and memory loss.
It’s obvious from the start that this is a movie that exists with zero budget. There are a few houses and some outdoor shooting, but the movie feels small and restrained, mostly locked in the basement of the house where Maggie resides and holds her meetings to prepare her followers. It’s smart, trying not to stretch the scope beyond the budget, and the movie gets great mileage out of very little by focusing most on the ideas and performances. In that sense, the movie it most closely resembles is the equally no-budget time travel masterpiece Primer, which crafted probably cinema’s greatest time travel story out of nothing with zero effects. Sound of My Voice is similarly toned, though eschews the hard sci-fi of Primer for a much more human story.
The real star here is Marling, who plays Maggie in a way that’s impossible to pin down. She seemingly knows and understands people, with the charisma of someone who is skilled at manipulation. But when confronted on concerns with her story, seems mostly ambivalent about answering them. She seemingly believes in this future she’s from, asking that others do the same, but she doesn’t insist or seemingly rule through fear. In fact, even her status as ‘leader’ seems questionable: when Peter meets with her alone in one scene in the film, she appears absolutely human and a little put off by the trappings of faith she’s forced to operate in to get people to believe her.
That lack of obvious motive is what’s most dangerous. She’s not taking these people away from their lives, or asking them to worship her, or even doing anything particularly alarming aside from seemingly preparing them. But that’s the trap of this cult, and where it differs from fare like last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene: so little is being asked, and no harm is seemingly being done, that you find yourself in the same spot as Peter and Lorna: wanting to believe her story despite themselves, because it’s too fascinating not to and she sells it with such conviction.
And Sound of My Voice goes out of its way to keep that ambiguity going. There’s plenty of reason not to believe her, and giant holes in her story both commented on and not. But at the same time, there are things happening on the periphery, coincidences in Peter and Lorna’s lives outside of the cult that seemingly tie in in ways that go beyond random chance... if you want to make that leap of belief. It requires a deft touch to create a movie that not only stands up to mutually exclusive interpretations but actively encourages them. Sound of My Voice dares, and succeeds, to offer this puzzle for people to make up their own minds about.
Anyone who’s looking for resolution in this story is going to come out sorely disappointed. Maggie might have pulled a Kyle Reese, but there’s no robot monsters to fight, just an ambiguous warning and a woman asking these people for faith: in her story, in her, in their own sense of what’s possible. And it’s that ambiguity that ultimately makes this movie unabashedly great soft sci-fi. It’s about the ideas, the nebulous spaces of ‘what if’ and what they might mean, not only personally but to the greater universe at large, more than any of the other, more fantastical trappings of the genre.
|news||DVD/Blu-Ray: October 9th||staceywi|
|review||Sound of My Voice does more with less ( out of 5)||Vincemaster|
|review||A Splinter of Doubt (3 out of 5)||ashogo|
|news||In Theaters: April 27th||staceywi|
|news||The First 12 Minutes Of Sound Of My Voice Showcase The Origins Of A Cult||Rorie|
|forum||The First 12 Minutes Of Sound Of My Voice Showcase The Origins Of A Cult||Rorie|