Thursday, 28 June 2012

Sound of My Voice (Zal Batmanglij, 2012) Review


WARNING: This trailer gives way too many plot details away for my liking.  However my review below does not!  So please read on.




The Sound of My Voice will keep you guessing.
The Sound of My Voice will hypnotise you.
The Sound of My Voice will leave you wanting more.

Indie sci-fi is all over the place at the moment.  Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia imagines the end of the world.  Another Earth features another Earth.  Even Terence Malick’s Tree of Life has big themes like a slightly less trippy 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It’s no surprise then that the writer/star Brit Marling conquered Sundance with not one but two science fiction flavoured low budget success stories in 2011.  On screen, Marling is a blonde beauty with no shortage of acting ability.  Behind the scenes, she is a producer and writer taking smart ideas and coupling them with believable characters and strained romances.


Sound of My Voice is about a cult.  It quickly flips expectations by introducing a character who fits the cult leader stereotype and then revealing him to be second-in-command to Marling’s Maggie who claims to be from the future.  The rituals, tests and routines of the cult are seen from the perspective of newcomers Peter and Lorna as they are initiated.

Beginning with the investigative journalist couple gaining access to the cult, their relationship with each other is tested as well as their belief and scepticism in the enigmatic Maggie.  Is she or isn’t she from the future?  Are her intentions good or evil?  Will Peter (Christopher Denham) be able to resist Maggie’s coercion tactics?   

This is a slow-burn thriller minus many real thrills.  The tension does mount and questions do arise to keep you guessing but unfortunately the film fails to fully fulfil the potential of the intriguing setup.  Towards the end, the introduction of a new character and a suspenseful upping of the stakes threaten to take the film into an action-packed climax.  But alas the climax is a little rushed, a little underwhelming.

The ending is simultaneously closed with no real room for differing interpretations and also abrupt enough to leave the audience gasping for more.  At less than 90 minutes, the film certainly does not outstay its welcome and actually leaves a feeling of being slightly underdeveloped.  A fundamental question is answered convincingly but there are elements that have been left tantalisingly unexplored.

However as an example of what can be achieved with a low budget, interesting characters, very strong acting and a neat narrative enigma, this is inspiring and entertaining independent filmmaking. 


Definitely see this if you liked Another Earth.  Or even the other recent cult-centric indie Martha Marcy May Marlene.  And watch out for Brit Marling.   Whether she’s a time traveller or not, this lady has a bright, bright future.

7 out of 10

Released in the UK on 3rd August 2012 

Seen it?  What did you think?  Anyone desperate to see this?