Would-be documentary filmmaker Peter (Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna (Vicius) infiltrate the creepy Californian sect thats grown around a young woman (Marling) who claims both to come from the future and to possess information vital to mankinds surviv
Ever since Shane Carruth’s Primer proved you don’t require big bucks to make big-brained science-fiction, there have been several entries in the ‘lo-fi sci-fi’ sub-genre, notably Timecrimes, Never Let Me Go and Another Earth. The last was co-written, like Sound Of My Voice, by its star, Brit Marling. Once again, she delivers a fresh take on a familiar sci-fi trope — parallel universes in Another Earth; time travel here — fusing Martha Marcy May Marlene and 12 Monkeys to fascinating and sporadically riveting effect.
Marling impresses as Maggie, the ethereally beautiful and charismatic young woman whose claims to have travelled back in time from the year 2054 have earned her a cult following, literally. Every weekend, saucer-eyed acolytes are showered, scrubbed and stripped of all possessions before they are driven, blindfolded, to the cellar where Maggie is hiding out. There they undergo initiation rituals, and are encouraged to fast, eat worms (“In the future, food is scarce”) and prepare in obscure ways for the dark future that Maggie insists is mankind’s fate. Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicola Vicius), less credulous than their fellow initiates, begin to secretly film the gatherings, hoping to make a documentary that not only exposes the cult, but is successful enough to lift them out of their humdrum existence. But will one or both of them fall under Maggie’s spell before they can uncover the truth?
Like Peter and Lorna, we are asked to question the veracity of Maggie’s incredible assertions, a delicate high-wire act that debutant director (and co-writer) Zal Batmanglij — now directing Marling in his next feature, The East — negotiates with authority. Although it sometimes has the feel of a short film stretched to feature length and lacks the sense of jeopardy that might have made for a more thrilling third act, only minor gripes are to be had. Sound Of My Voice is a wholly impressive piece of work, proving that Another Earth was no fluke for Marling and announcing Batmanglij as a director to watch in the future — assuming, of course, that we have one.
The duo of Marling and Batmanglij have constructed an engrossing mystery, written, acted and directed with considerable skill.