- Running time:
- 84 minutes
- Christopher Denham -
- Nicole Vicius -
- Brit Marling -
- Avery Kristen Pohl -
- Abigail Pritchett
- Davenia McFadden -
- Carol Briggs
The Sound of My Voice (* * * 1/2 out of four, R, in select cities Friday) is powered by a twentysomething, angelic-looking cult leader who mixes down-to-earth humor with an abiding melancholy and a mysterious ability to seem to know people's innermost thoughts.
That idea is intriguing enough. But this clever, low-budget film kicks the concept up a few notches to mesmerizing. What begins as a tense tale of a couple of amateur documentary filmmakers infiltrating a mysterious cult veers off in an unexpected and even more unsettling direction. The result is a contemplative sci-fi thriller. The unfolding story is consistently disturbing, probing the human desire to believe — in a variety of extreme scenarios.
An intricate and taut thriller, it's co-written and produced by Brit Marling, who also stars as Maggie, the enigmatic high priestess of the cult.
Director and co-writer Zal Batmanglij shows how maximum dramatic value can be fashioned from a minimal budget, provided it's bolstered by a clever idea, well-written script and believable acting.
A large part of the film's power lies in the spell cast by Marling as the charismatic Maggie, the leader of a highly secretive cult based in a nondescript house in Southern California. Is she a controlling crackpot who wants to mess with people's minds? Or is she, as she claims, a time traveler? And why are government officials apparently on her trail?
Batmanglij crafts the well-paced tale with unstinting suspense, and Marling's luminous performance weaves a trance-like atmosphere of near-paranoia. While Maggie's voice initially appears gently soothing, there's an undercurrent of controlling menace, so the title is particularly apt.
Would-be documentarians Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) are assimilated with remarkable speed into the cult's ethos. Locked in a room with other white-robed folks, all listen raptly as the ethereal cult leader Maggie recounts her elaborate personal saga.
Insidious, engrossing and thought-provoking, Sound of My Voice is certain to get under your skin.
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