Sound of My Voice
One of the most captivating opening ten minutes that I have seen in years and it does not lose your attention once during the film.
Sound of My Voice an intelligent slow burning indie drama that somehow fell off many people’s radar despite a relatively warm reception at Sundance. The logical answer would be that it may have been slightly overshadowed by lead Brit Marling’s other indie drama during the same year, Another Earth. It is one of the most captivating opening ten minutes that I have seen in years and it does not lose your attention once during the film.
The beginning of Sound of My Voice starts with an appropriately named title card of “One”. Two characters pull up into a garage with their car with further instructions pending their arrival. A man comes into the garage and pats the man and woman down to make sure they are not carrying any weapons. They are handed a change of clothes and instructed to “be thorough with the soap” as they shower before changing into their white scrubs. The two are then blindfolded before they are loaded into a van with several others heading to a discreet location.
Everyone is gathered in a circle all wearing the same white scrubs in some unknown basement. An older man with long gray haired man and oval glasses introduces the two main characters Peter Aitken (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna Michaelson (Nicole Vicius) to the rest of the group. The man explains that Peter and Lorna are in for an unforgettable experience as newcomers but are not permitted to ask questions or make any sudden movements. The man then calls Maggie (Brit Marling) to the room. She slowly strolls in with an oxygen tank in hand.
Maggie goes on to explain her story of how she woke up in a bath tub in a motel one day but is still to this day not sure how she ended up there to begin with. She left the motel only remembering her name and her birthday but nothing else. She had no money or memories so she ended up on the streets until one day the man with the long gray hair, who we first saw in the basement, picked her up off the streets. She also explains that the tattoo of an anchor on her ankle means that she is a traveler and the number 54 next to it represents the year 2054 because that is where she comes from.
In chapter “Two” Peter and Lorna are leaving the cult location and reveal the true purpose of them being there. He explains that he wants to expose her because she is a con-artist who claims to be traveling back in time to save the people she loves. This bleeds into the third chapter that begins with Peter swallowing a transmitter which will record video of Maggie. The footage will be part of the documentary that the two plan to make on cults.
Just as he was about to expose Maggie as the fraud that he thought she was something crazy happened. She seeks him out and begins to describe his past well enough that he angers him before eventually he breaks down into tears. So maybe she is not con-artist he thought she was? Even though he denies later to Lorna that the emotions he showed were faked, it is hard to believe him. The ensuing chapters make it even harder to tell if Peter is continuing with the investigative journalism or if he has actually started to believe in Maggie.
2011 was a breakout year for Brit Marling. This is because not only did she star, co-produce, and co-write Sound of My Voice but also did the same for Another Earth. Both which were considered Sundance hits the same year. In both of these roles, she plays a compelling otherworldly character that is absolutely convincing and powerful.
However, perhaps even more impressive than the fantastic acting, is that the film was done by a first time filmmaker. Zal Batmanglij bypasses many of the pitfalls of similar films with thought-provoking scenes in a seemingly effortless manner. That is because the film does not clutter up the plot; it is simple yet highly effective. These are feats that are often not overcome by first time directors.
Sound of My Voice has the cult concept from Martha Marcy May Marlene and the lo-fi drama feel of Brit Marling’s previous film, Another Earth. As much as I enjoyed both of those films, I found myself mesmerized the whole time during Sound of My Voice and could not wait to see what happened next. If you thought the ending of Another Earth was intriguing, wait to you see this. There is no doubt some will fault the ending and some of the minor hiccups it had along the way but for me the positives vastly exceeded the negatives.