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.