Listen to the sound of this review and watch this movie!
Caught up with my TV shows following all their “winter finales”, I’ve been spending a lot of time watching movies. Time Warner On-Demand, Netflix, and Redbox have all been invaluable entertainment resources. However, my Top Ten list for the year now feels somewhat out of date. Had I seen Sound of My Voice earlier this year when it played for a brief time in theaters, I surely would have placed it near, if not at, the top of my list.
This is a movie that enthralled me from beginning to end and threatens to stick with me for a long, disturbing time. It is effective, I believe, because it provides so few answers for what’s happening. I don’t just mean that the ending is left open to interpretation; I also mean that there are little details sprinkled throughout that seem to have nothing to do with the story, but may really be important pieces to solving a puzzle.
I hesitate revealing too many plot points because part of the thrill of Sound of My Voice is discovering them yourself. In general, a young couple is going through the painstaking process of joining a mysterious cult. But, why? What are their motives? And what exactly is this cult? Who is the mysterious woman, named Maggie, at the center of it?
By asking these questions, I may even be revealing too much. Part of the experience of watching Sound of My Voice is deciding which questions to ask. And depending on the part of the story that interests you, you may or may not get answers. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what it means. This process for the audience uncannily mirrors the process of the characters. Who or what are they going to believe? Who or what do they trust?
I’m sure I’m making this sound like one of those pretentious art films that critics rave about, and then when you see it, you’re left scratching your head. Sound of My Voice is not like that at all. It offers an entertaining narrative with a beginning, middle and end. At face value, it’s a solid little thriller with a twist ending. But if you open your mind and surrender to a bigger picture, it’s scarily thought-provoking.
First-time director Zal Batmanglij shows great restraint while dealing with shocking and sensational subject matter, favoring intimacy over flashy camera work. Actress Brit Marling (Maggie) co-wrote the screenplay with Batmanglij, making me fear that they’re drawing the story from some terrifying real experience.
I’ve called Sound of My Voice “enthralling”, “thrilling”, “scary” and “terrifying”, but let me be clear: although it is the most horrifying movie I’ve seen this year, it is not a horror film. It’s strictly drama masquerading as a thriller with a little hint of science fiction. It’s quiet; there’s no blood or gore. There’s no action. But it is without a doubt one of the most harrowing film experiences I could imagine having. I challenge you to watch it and argue with me otherwise.