The East (May 31) – Brit Marling’s latest movie, The East, sounds like an incendiary amalgamation of The Edukators and If A Tree Falls, with a dash of Fight Club-esque nihilism for good measure. In Sound of My Voice, she played a cult leader and the protagonists were the infiltrators; here, she is the infiltrator, attempting to gain access into an “eco-terrorist” group that launches attacks against major corporations (I use quotation marks as I am not quite sure the rather-easily-slapped-on terrorist label should be bandied about quite so freely in cases involving environmental issues). The East finds Brit teaming up with long-time collaborator and fellow Georgetown alum Zal Batmanglij to once again explore the more subversive side of life (they also co-wrote and produced Sound Of My Voice). Alexander Skarsgård plays the group’s firebrand (ha!) leader and Ellen Page one of its members. The East promises to be a thrilling take on some very cogent, all too terrifyingly real issues and if Brit’s past work is any indication, expect this to be thoroughly and I do mean thoroughly engrossing. The trailer alone will give you chills.
Passion (September 7) – Brian De Palma knows a thing or two about the lurid, with a resume featuring Scarface, Carlito’s Way, and Carrie. Rachel McAdams (yes, the ebullient girl next door Rachel McAdams) and Noomi Rapace (yes, the girl with the dragon tattoo) star in De Palma’s remake of the 2010 French thriller Love Crime, which follows two women playing games with each other in a business setting. Think The Devil Wears Prada with a lot more violence and sex, maybe? While things start out with a little good ol’ taking credit for someone else’s idea – Rachel McAdams’ character takes credit for her underling’s work – they quickly escalate. I mean, didn’t Desperate Housewives teach you the jump from casserole bickering to murder isn’t all that great!? McAdams and Rapace could be the new Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis from Black Swan: things are looking pretty steamy, lack of leotards and anorexia notwithstanding.
Following in the chilling footsteps of last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sound of My Voice’s premise is simple enough: couple Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) set out to infiltrate a cult, make a documentary about it, and expose the leader as a fraud. As in Martha Marcy May Marlene, however, reality and truth are eerie, elusive concepts. The process of joining this cult is a disorienting and de-personalizing experience. To be allowed into the cult, they have to assume the identities of believers and, in the process, relinquish their real ones. Needless to say, Peter and Lorna’s journey quickly becomes an honest-to-god identity crisis. What’s more, the line between wanting to do a documentary on a cult and being in one is as enigmatic as the cult’s enigmatic leader. Who is she? Is she just a manipulative hack, or is she really from the year 2054, sent here to impart knowledge to a select group of “chosen ones?”
Co-writers Brit Marling and Director Zal Batmanglij, both Georgetown graduates, bring a mesmerizing, minimalist ethos to this film. In Marling’s other film Another Earth, Marling’s ethereal, luminous presence embodies her walking-wounded character. Her beautiful otherness is appropriately otherworldly and futuristic. Sci-fi tinge notwithstanding, Another Earthwas grounded in its human element, yet had enough of a flight of fancy to transport the viewer to a different dimension. The existential “anywhere but here” quest that underpinned is present in The Sound Of My Voice as well. Ultimately, there is this escapist search for meaning the viewer keeps hearing about in both.
. Sure, Peter and Lorna’s very hipster/I am so tired of the scene asides add some levity to the matter [ e.g. bemoaning the superficiality of getting drunk at art installations and one’s life playing out like an episode of Entourage], but this search for something substantive and meaningful belies sweeping generalizations about the cult members as “damaged people” doing damning things.