Review: Sound Of My Voice

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I knew absolutely nothing about Sound Of My Voice going into watching it so I was very pleased to find myself really enjoying it. It’s all about a couple who are documentary filmmakers who go undercover to join a cult. The cult is headed by a mysterious woman named Maggie who claims to be from the future and the couple want to expose her as a fraud because they think that she is going to end up having all the members commit suicide.

Sound Of My Voice is a hybrid of the drama, sci-fi and thriller genres that actually makes you think. Instead of relying on special effects or gore it has a story that makes you question your own sense of reality. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with special effects and gore, but it’s nice to be able to see a film that doesn’t rely on gimmicks in order to tell a story. Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling have effectively written a screenplay that relies on how the main characters face the prospect of whether or not Maggie is actually from the future. Throughout the entire film I was trying to figure out whether or not she was, because there are several different avenues you can take to draw your own conclusion. This isn’t a ‘black and white’ film; there are no wrong or right answers.

The characters Lorna (Nicole Vicius) and Peter (Christopher Denham) are a couple who live together and yet by the end of the film they seem like strangers to one another. The dynamics between the two of them are played out really well, because they are both affected by Maggie, and each takes a different path as to what they truly believe. Personally, I can’t stand it when characters don’t change at all during the course of a film, so this aspect of the story was very original. Lorna and Peter go into the cult for the same reason, to make a documentary, but by the end of the film they come out as two completely different people. Both Vicius and Denham are good in their roles and bring a believability to the characters and their actions.

The main character in Sound Of my Voice is Maggie and she’s played convincingly by Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the film. She’s a very complex character, because she claims to be from a future in which food is scarce and resources very limited, and yet exudes this peacefulness. I would expect somebody from the future to be in a more of a panic about trying to tell people about what is going to happen, but perhaps the character is more believable because she doesn’t fall into that stereotype. Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off she has decided to train people in order for them to become good survivors in the near future.  You really won’t be able to quite figure out whether Maggie is for real or just a con artist until the end of the film, then you can easily jump to the conclusion that you want to have. In a sense Maggie becomes what we want her to be.

A lot of Sound Of My Voice takes place inside a basement, where the cult meets. As well as co-writing the screenplay Zal Batmanglij also directed this and for a film with limited location shots it really is quite stylized. I didn’t get the sense that this was a cheaply made film or that they had a limited budget. A talented director is one who can take what they have and make the most out of it. I noticed that he uses quite a lot of tight shots in the basement scenes, which makes sense since that is such a small area to shoot in, but it also gives the sense of life closing in on the cult members; that their little circle is what stands between them and possible destruction.

I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic films, and Sound Of My Voice has a story that precedes that kind of genre of film, since it takes place before the world changes for the worst. Or does it? Is Maggie really from the future, or are the cult members doomed?