I don’t even know how to begin summing up The Sound of My Voice. It’s really hard to try to describe this film without giving away too much about the experience itself. It really benefits the viewer to go in from cold. Watch the trailer, and then watch the film. But being able to experience the mystery and confusion alongside the characters is important in this story, and heightens the experience. It’s a fantastic film. Chilling, haunting…it gets right under your skin and stays there long after you leave the theater, but not quite in the way you might imagine it will.
The Sound of My Voice is the story of Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius), a couple who has decided to infiltrate a small cult operating out of a basement in a normal, nondescript Los Angeles residential neighborhood. Their plan is to secretly film a documentary about the group’s activities, centering on its charismatic leader, Maggie (Britt Marling – also co-writer of the film). Maggie claims to be from the year 2054, and is preparing her followers for upcoming dark times and a transition to a “better place.”
Maggie herself is an enigma. We don’t really know much about her, other than what she tell us (the truth of which is obviously questionable). Marling is phenomenal in the role. Vulnerable, yet strong and authoritative (sometimes even intimidating), she carries the character with an almost ethereal grace, yet manages to make her charming and realistic as well. For the leader of a new-age-y cult, she is surprisingly accessible and down to earth in her dialogue and interactions.
Marling and co-writer Zal Batmanglij masterfully weave a complexly nuanced, emotional tale. Tension builds in an instant and you never know what is going to come next. Maggie (like the film itself) is completely disarming – possessing the ability to get into the minds of her followers and disassemble them from the inside out, laying bare secrets and shames that have been buried as deep as possible.
The Sound of My Voice introduces far more questions than it attempts to answer, and that is part of its allure. As the story progresses, it is secretly adding layer upon layer of mystery, and it is only when you leave and start considering the past 90 minutes do you really start to examine exactly what you have seen. Aspects of this story were still coming into focus a day later. And not all of the questions are obvious – this film really takes the time to reward viewers who put a lot into it, and there is a lot just below the surface if you are willing to dig a little and really consider the film and the story it is telling.
The Sound of My Voice is in the middle of a limited theatrical release, so be sure to keep an eye out for it. It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece that is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when genre works on a tight budget. As I said earlier, it’s really hard to sum up without giving things away, so I’ll leave it at this: It was pretty incredible, I loved every moment of it, and it’s totally worth your time.