By Dirk Sonniksen | April 28, 2012
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Writer(s): Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
Starring: Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Brit Marling, Richard Wharton
We meet Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) as they talk about infiltrating a cult. Peter is planning a documentary, and is taking Lorna along as his accomplice. Soon thereafter they arrive at what appears to be an ordinary house in the suburbs. Peter and Lorna are prepped and taken to the basement where they meet Klaus (Richard Wharton), the white-haired-hippie-guy, a man who looks the part of a cult leader. But alas, he is not! Enter the beautiful Maggie (Brit Marling), the actual leader of this band of misguided folks, a small group whose gullible nature is overshadowed only by their craziness. The couple is taken in, and thus begins a journey for Peter and Lorna that takes them far beyond the comfort of their ordinary lives.
At first glance, The Sound of My Voice is a film about a cult, but then it goes deeper. Director Zal Batmanglij brings out the best and the worst in some unlikely places, and it develops into a character study of Peter and Lorna, with Maggie becoming the catalyst in their relationship. It’s a film that affords a look at how individuals plod through a relationship, unaware of their true strengths and weaknesses. We see Peter as the intelligent, bookish type—grounded, confident, with little fear—while Lorna is the opposite, and simply along for the ride . . . and the love. It certainly appears to be a clear-cut case of a lopsided relationship, until common sense is thrown into the mix.
This was my first experience with actors Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius, and the two played off of each other quite well. Denham’s character is reminiscent of other quasi-snobby, intellectual types, but with enough baggage to make him interesting. Nicole Vicius is effective as a woman with considerably more baggage, holding her own, perhaps, only by being Peter’s girlfriend. Brit Marling plays a character that is loved and hated throughout the film, a device she is able to pull off. Another notable is Richard Wharton as the cult’s director of sorts — he’s nice in that truly creepy way.
Zal Batmanglij’s take on cults is subtle, at least by the standards of most big films — but this isn’t a big film, not by budgetary standards or length. In fact, it is quite short; surprisingly short. The Sound of My Voice starts abruptly, and ends in the same fashion, with some backstory presented throughout the film, but not so much as to make it annoying. Shooting The Sound of My Voice in this way creates a realistic disconnect between Peter and Lorna, a tool that keeps them constantly at a distance. I wanted them to be happy, but then I wasn’t sure — indeed I became as confused as the two lovers, and lovers like Peter and Lorna should never join a cult.