84 min., dir. by Zal Batmanglij, with Brit Marling, Christopher Denham, and Nicole Vicius
Another philosophy thesis from Brit Marling, the co-writer and star of the disappointing Another Earth, Sound of My Voice is a study of beliefs and what drives people to look past the obvious to take faith in the unknowable.
Following the instructions provided to them, Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) find themselves in the garage of seemingly empty house. A man walks in and takes the couple through a rigorous preparation ceremony. Wearing hospital gowns, the two are bound and blindfolded, put into a minivan, and driven to an even emptier house. Led into the basement, now unbound and able to see, they meet a white-haired man and engage in an elaborate secret handshake. This is the couples’ first time meeting with this group of people (a cult) who follow a woman named Maggie. Claiming to be from the future, Maggie is the person the two want to meet. Going through all the required pre-initiation rituals, Peter and Lorna are actually amateur documentary film makers looking to expose Maggie for who she really is: a charlatan.
Many people will see Sound of My Voice as another Contact, a film trying to speak to both sides of the argument on faith. Instead, this film is really doing what its characters set out to do: explore how rational people can be dragged into an obvious lie, when all the evidence points to it being false. There’s only one small speck that could make someone believe Maggie’s madness, but that in itself has clear explanations to prove it’s a lie. But for someone who is willing to give it the smallest attention seems to be sucked into the game. The simple need to have an answer brings your guard down.
Sound of My Voice throws so many random items in your face to ever pull itself back together. Random references to sexual molestation and terrorism seem to be ploys to confuse the audience and they do, but for all the wrong reasons. These glimpses into possible outcomes are unfettered and meaningless when it comes to the overall outcome. Even the purpose of the title seems lost amongst the whole picture. It may have been poor planning or just an overambitious need to make this a feature length film, but these moments of mystery work against the film and bring it down.
With an interesting approach to delivering its purpose, Sound of My Voice just worked a little too hard to be different. By the end, I was thinking more about the repulsive group vomit scene that sounds like bones breaking than what was really going on. It wasn’t till I sat down to write this that things began to make sense. They say as long as a movie stays with you, then it doesn’t matter if you really liked it or not. In this case, however, I would rather have a more cohesive delivery than a disturbing memory.