It has been nearly a week since I watched Sound of My Voice, and it has crossed my mind in some form or another ever since. It lingers in my memory like the haunting central figure, a woman who has convinced a small cult following she is from the year 2054. It is a small film, some may call it science fiction while others might say it is straight drama. That is neither here nor there; Sound of My Voice is at times a hypnotizing and intimate look at perception and reality, about expectations and the human psyche. Once it gets into your head, the vapor trail is lasting.
The girl in question goes by Maggie, and is played with quiet intensity by the up-and-coming Brit Marling, who can also be seen playing Richard Gere's daughter in Arbitrage, another excellent film. Marling's beauty is effortless and unassuming. As Maggie, her job in the film is to keep you guessing whether or not she is crazy or whether she may actually be from the future. The two stars of the film, the focus of our story, are Peter and Lorna (Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius). Peter is a journalist looking to expose the cult as fraud. More importantly than Peter's motivations is his manner as a rigid, bookish control freak. Lorna is a reformed wild child, so the dynamic in their relationship is intriguing. I saw Peter as the man who saved Lorna from doom.
Peter and Lorna do their research, they study the traditions, and Peter hides video and audio equipment on his person in order to expose Maggie. The two are picked up in one house, blindfolded, cuffed, and driven to another house where they shower vigorously and slip into white clothing. They are led down to a basement where they must complete a secret handshake that is as elaborate as anything you and your buddies have ever tried in jest. Maggie arrives, sometimes hooked up to oxygen, and warns the followers of a planet at war in the future. She manipulates the captive audience into believing she is a prophet, even having everyone in the group vomit on command in order to purge their body and "feel free." And she takes their blood, for what we never quite know.
What is fascinating is the way these two people react to Maggie and the cult. Expectations go one way, then veer in another direction when other factors and characters come into play. And of course there is the central mystery of Maggie, and whether or not she is from the future. I won't say here, but I will say the answer isn't very easy to see. And that is refreshing. Director Zal Batmanglij, working from a screenplay by Marling herself (who also wrote and starred in Another Earth last year) keep the ambiguity in tact and allows the intensity to remain quiet and unassuming.
Sound of My Voice stays in your mind the way staring at the sun leaves a ring behind when you close your eyes. It stains your memory, not in a bad way. Christopher Denham is going to be an excellent character actor - appearing later this month in Ben Affleck's Argo - and Nicole Vicius is a hard-working actor with a very unusual look and real talent. Brit Marling will be a star before long. Sound of My Voice isn't easy to find, it most likely won't be on Netflix or Redbox quite yet. But if you have the means, seek it out.