Sound of My Voice Reviews
I put Melancholia and Another Earth together because it was a way to analyze and discuss skepticism and belief within a more scientific than religious point of view. No, I wasn't worried with the prophecies for 2012, but I got impressed with the following discoveries of a planet being devoured by its star. Perhaps, deep inside I asked myself: and if? So, in this New Year's Eve, a little bit disappointed once everything remained the same, I decided to rewatch Another Earth. I haven't noticed before that Brit Marling, the lead actress, co-wrote the script with director Mike Cahill, what took me to another movie also co-written by her: Sound of My Voice. That's curious to note how the work of some (most?) writers/directors is really connected (a succession of different ideas leading to a homogeneity) . There's a line in Another Earth that is, for me, the exactly connection between both movies:
"Within our lifetimes, we've marveled as biologists have managed to look at ever smaller and smaller things. And astronomers have looked further and further into the dark night sky, back in time and out in space. But maybe the most mysterious of all is neither the small nor the large: it's us, up close. Could we even recognize ourselves, and if we did, would we know ourselves? What would we say to ourselves? What would we learn from ourselves? What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves and look at us?"
The Sound of My Voice can be seen as the separation line between the micro and the macro, probably where we, as humans, really stand. If another Earth put us in perspective, the sound of my voice reveals us: unsure, fickle, afraid, starving for salvation and certainties.
For me it was clear and obvious that the movie was a view on humanity and not on sci-fi; that it was way closer to Martha Marcy May Marlene than to Another Earth. Until I read an interview of Marling, Zal Batmanglij and Christopher Denham (who played Peter) to Milk Made and started to wonder: am I that skeptical?
Reviewing some scenes, rethinking some points, the answer is no. The script has some holes that don't seem to be intentional, at least not in the concept of open-end. If we clear see childhood abuse and, perhaps, its consequences in the character of the cult leader it's because of a sequence of scenes where after Maggie describes an abusive situation/memory, we see Abigail with her dad (that, in a previous scene, is already portrayed to look like a sexual abuser about to act/attack) and start to glue the pieces of what we saw before. There're lot of signs, right from the beginning*, and they are so many that they tend to induce us to be sure that Maggie is a fraud. But isn't that part of the game? I wouldn't belive that we are talking about a flimsy script. That, that is perhaps a trap. A trap to show us how similar we are from Peter - narrow-minded, self-involved, pretentious - and how, like him, we would easily end up eating the poisoned apple.
"What do you wanna do? You wanna go back to our normal lives. That's fine. We can do that. I can teach all day. You can stay home and write and surf the web. And on the weekends we can get wasted at various art installations or sneak forties into random foreign films. And then it's suddenly, like, we wake up and, whoops, where did our 20s go? But somewhere in the Valley there is a woman living in a basement who claims to be from the future. She's actually amassing followers. These people who believe that she'll lead them to salvation or whatever. And, yes, she's dangerous, but we have to see this thing through all the way or we're chumps. Don't you wanna do something that matters?"
*Maggie wakes up in a bathtub in some motel room. She has no idea of who she is , she can't remeber anything but her name and birthdate. She wanders aimlessly through the streets, living on the edge. Klaus, that had heard about her, finds and takes care of her. In some weeks she starts to remember some things, violent images. She thinks she has lost her mind, until Klaus explains to her who she is. What does that sound like? Pretty much like any fanatic cult after their messiah, no? But the only question that really intrigues me - because throughout the movie I never doubt that Maggie was a con artist - is how Peter and Lorna found out about the cult.
** I like that: "Time travel doesn't mean that the person who comes back isn't ordinary. If the military, let's say, in the future develops the ability to time travel and a soldier comes back, that's a very human person who's flawed and difficult and complicated and likes video games and listens to his iPod."
It's the story of an attractive, amateur investigative journalist couple (Denham and Vicius) who join an apparent cult in order to debunk it. The cult is led by a white robed wearing Californian blonde, Maggie who claims to come from the year 2054. The cult members have been selected for some scary task (possibly a political insurrection with guns), and are blindfolded and sanitized before their daily indoctrination sessions.
Marling is superbly understated yet powerful and wields her charismatic power with a soft, whispering voice and intense conviction, and occasionally cruelty. the cruelty derived from her perception and exploitation of the weakness of others. Denham and Vicius are an apparently normal couple with the usual smattering of human of tragedy and dysfunctional problems. Maggie eventually stresses their bond, through her extreme commitment test, forcing them to choose between the cult and their relationship.
I was rapt throughout and admired the constantly interesting and escalating stakes in the script. I was disappointed (spoiler alert) by the cop out ending, which doesn't definitively decide whether Maggie is a charlatan or not and take the easy, ambiguous way out. You may have a more definitive conclusion. Look for this one, it's terrific.
"Sound of My Voice" is a marvelously ambiguous and clever future cult movie, featuring a cult actress, that is possibly about a cult.(Seriously, there were more people in that basement than at the screening I was at. Apparently, everybody else was at the other movie about a substitute teacher - "Monsieur Lazhar.") The movie uses a broad meaning of time travel that also includes going back in one's memories, getting inside the characters' heads and ours, simultaneously. All that proves is that you need James Urbaniak to make a screwy time travel movie. But since usually the words "it's bigger on the inside" have to be uttered for someone to truly believe in time travel, it's rather a case of these people wanting to be part of something bigger than themselves, as Peter points out, including himself. So, what does that say about documentary filmmakers? I just hope you know you can't knit on an airplane, anymore.
Despite being an unknown cast, one has to venerate the performances from all involved, especially by its most accomplished actor, the fantastic Brit Marling. She inhibits her role to an extraordinary degree, and brings just the right amount of ambiguity. That ambiguity serves the film well, as it's never predictable, yet does leave us a bit unfulfilled as the ending seems overly artsy and wavering.
The casting was done superbly and we find outstanding acting abilities of Brit Marling as Maggie and very solid performances from Christopher Denham as Peter Aitken and Nicole Vicius as Lorna Michaelson. If I knew that Sound of My Voice was also named among the Top Indie Films at Festivals in 2011 on IndieWire's criticWIRE. I would watch it much earlier. In September 2012, the film won the Octopus d'Or at the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, for the best international feature film. Don't worry, it's never too late to enjoy it in full. Great cinematography, wonderful story telling following very smoothly developed screenplay, exciting acting and excellent directing - what more can we ask for?