Retrospective: Sound of My Voice (2011)


Objectivity is overrated. When you like something you should be able to argue that objectivity misses the point. This is the second Brit Marling movie I have reviewed and to follow on with my complete lack of objectivity having loved her first, her fledgling film career continues to impress in this 80 minute masterpiece.

ONE

This is a movie in which Churchill’s dictum about Russia applies – ‘it’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ so there should be no plot spoilers other than what you see in the trailer. It is a very interesting eversion of a science fiction movie as sci fi films usually show a speculated future, often without any real details of life other than it being a sort of recognisable version of our own, with big or small changes depending on the movie. It will often show you the world without really telling us about the culture of this new world. Just like how the characters are convinced about the culture in the future from the words of their prophet, the audience have to take what is said as a given despite our own doubts. If you take the most literal meaning of this movie, it’s all about believing in a supposed culture in the future.

This movie probably gets the closest feeling of early Phillip K. Dick with the fear, paranoia and the other worldliness. His early books and short stories often shared the common theme of the remarkable being hidden in the everyday. This hidden power in the everyday is what is what makes this an interesting movie. It is a puzzle without an answer. The basis of the plot is as follows: Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) are a couple in their 20s, both journalists who join a cult with the objective of exposing it. Using the cinema vérité style of old home movies, Peter is seen to be twisted, turned by and convinced by what he sees, causing a split between the two and a wonderful final act.

TWO

Sound of My Voice isn’t constricted by the limitations of its budget, as it is a simple idea, which looks right with the correct costumes, and some very interesting cuts and rather disjointed plot developments that come together in a wonderfully interesting conclusion. It has a lovely soundtrack, creating a rather sinister soundscape.

It’s all based around a seemingly oppressive cult where everyone is purified to see the prophet, who then acts in all manner of strange ways to impart the message of death and a return to a prelapsarian future. It’s set in Los Angeles, the capital of fake prophets and this movie asks whether is she a fraud or genuine? This interplay between the two is what makes it so interesting especially in the last 20 minutes of the film. The initial cutting between characters and place is initially disorientating but as you learn more it comes together really neatly, such as a moment from an old home video of the central couple showing their upbringing to give context to their thoughts and explain their motivations.

The major theme of this movie is trust and identities as this is played and faked throughout the movie. Brit Marling plays a character who is claiming to be something that seems very doubtful. A lot is left unexplained leaving much for the audience to decide at the end and that’s why I really like it. It doesn’t wrap up its lose ends and leaves much unexplained so you can argue about it endlessly. It’s an especially fitting conclusion because nobody in this film is trustworthy in any capacity as everyone is hiding something and the close shots of everyone really adds to the sense of paranoia.

THREE

As always, Brit Marling is amazing to watch as a character who jumps between mood swings and acts in a way which absorbs everyone else’s performances. She sticks in the memory as a mysterious waif-like figure but has great power in her character which draws you into the performance.

It’s the length of a TV special, around 80 minutes long which is incredibly short for a feature so for that reason alone its worth seeing as brevity is always a huge asset. Despite featuring very few sets it doesn’t look cheap or as if its trying to hide its low budget with funny filters or overly dark interiors.

In many ways this is a movie which has lots of questions. It’s reminiscent of David Lynch as there are lots of figures throughout the film who who are left utter mysteries and completely unexplained. I would love further development along similar lines, not a sequel per se but an expanded look at this world of cults and people at the edge of society with a neat sci-fi twist.

Review by Harry Riedl

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