Sound of My Voice has no easy answers but instead lives in the gray area of a topic most people would rather not venture into: cults. The film follows two investigative journalists, Peter and Lorna, as they take the plunge down the rabbit hole by becoming a part of a cult. While their goal is to secretly create a documentary that will expose the leader as a fraud, the couple get transformed along the way.
Director Zal Batmanglij manages to create a film that flirts with science-fiction but uses it as a means to explore the human psyche, taking the audience to a place few have ever ventured. While there is a fantasy element to the story, Batmanglij uses no special effects. None are needed. The film works on multiple levels in multiple genres but never veers off of its main course, creating a complex puzzle for the viewer to solve.
At the heart of the puzzle is Maggie, the leader of the cult, played by the beautiful and talented Brit Marling (who starred and co-wrote last year’s indie hit Another Earth, check out our earlier interview here). Casually manipulative, yet open and seemingly honest, it is hard not to trust Maggie and what she is doing, even as an observer. Yet there are moments of violence that make you question her motives and wonder whether or not she truly is dangerous. There is a scene with an apple that you will never forget.
Sound of My Voice is one of those films that will have a cult following of its own well after its release. The intensity of almost every scene keeps the audience on edge just enough that when the characters are outside of the cult you almost breathe a sigh of relief.
The film itself seems almost self-aware that it is a puzzle to be solved. Each scene is broken down into chapters that can be taken individually or together as a whole. Once it is released on DVD it would be interesting to see how the film fits together in a different order.
Part of the genius of Batmanglij is that he leaves it to the audience to come to their own conclusion. Some scenes are truly hard to watch due to their graphic content but Batmanglij never takes sides in the matter. What starts out as a black and white experiment quickly turns into shades of gray. This is the kind of film that demands multiple viewings and the audience is sure to abide, whether it wants to or not. The questions it raises will gnaw at your subconscious. That is the sign of a truly masterful film.
PPLA was lucky enough to catch a preview screening of this film, which opens nationwide April 27th.