Sound of My Voice is long on atmosphere
Starring Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, and Brit Marling. Rated PG. Opens Friday, May 18, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
In the moody Sound of My Voice, not much is said about the motivations of documentary filmmakers Peter and Lorna (Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius), who work hard to join a mysterious Los Angeles subculture in order to unmask its leader, whom they deem dangerous.
The interlopers must be vetted, blindfolded, and driven to various hidden locations, then disinfected and reclothed. Oh, and they have to learn one seriously wacky secret handshake before meeting the inaccessible Maggie, played by Brit Marling, who cowrote the film with director Zal Batmanglij. (She shot the film while making the similarly science-fiction–toned Another Earth, which she cowrote with that low-budget item’s director, Mike Cahill.)
The white-shrouded leader carries an oxygen tank and claims to have travelled from the year 2054. She can seem disarmingly “normal” at times, even sharing an illicit smoke with Peter, but no dissent is tolerated. We never learn what happens to the guy who points out—in the movie’s most affecting scene—that Maggie’s nicely crooned song from the future is, in fact, a ’90s number by the Cranberries.
Meanwhile, our main duo has some relationship problems: he’s a tight-assed elementary-school teacher, and she has a history of cocaine abuse. It’s not long before Maggie’s minions are working at splitting them up.
There’s also an agent (Davenia McFadden) hot on Maggie’s trail, and one of Peter’s students (Avery Pohl) is a budding Wednesday Addams, with weird projects that somehow attract the cult’s attention. These tantalizing subplots invite enjoyable conjecture, and the mysterious vibe is intriguing, but everything feels invented just to get an audience talking. That’s nice, but I’m not convinced the filmmakers—either set of them—actually know what they’re trying to say here.
Watch the trailer for Sound of My Voice.