Well, here's a nice little "unclassifiable" that managed to take us by surprise. See, the wife and I were supposed to see the new South American thriller THE ROAD at the local art-plex, but thanks to a faulty projector, the screening didn't take place. It was either go home "empty handed" or watch the ONE film playing that managed to match our schedule. And luckily for us, that ONE film, we were told, involved cults and looked "creepy" to the ticket girl. So in we went.
Ah, cults. If you'll indulge me with a brief trip down memory lane? When I was a college student in San Francisco, I worked out of a downtown office building that also happened to house an organization known variously as CARP and the International Student Cooperation. As the public transit system would have it, I would often arrive significantly early for work, and would spend a little time hanging out with my new "instant friends" at that office... I'd watch a little video, listen to a brief lecture or two...
...yeah, I knew what was up. They were the Moonies, and they were hoping I'd join them on a "weekend retreat" (or better yet, fall for their "Ocean Church" front where they could keep me on a boat as long as they wanted). At the time, I talked about the idea with one of my favorite gal-pals (not actually a "girlfriend")... what if we actually went? What if we kept an eye on each other and refused to be brainwashed? Just to see what they tried? Well, it seemed like an amusing idea at the time, but we didn't actually go through with it, and am I ever grateful for that. Just because you THINK you know it all...
...which brings us to SOUND OF MY VOICE. Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius are Peter and Lorna, a pair of would-be documentary filmmakers in L.A. presented with what they see as an opportunity to make a splash by "blowing the lid" off a local cult which has all the makings of a Heaven's Gate suicide club... or perhaps a violent militia. Said cult centers around the enigmatic Maggie (Brit Marling, who co-wrote the film with director Zal Batmanglij) who claims to have traveled to us from the year 2054 and says that she's here to escort a chosen few to a "safe place" when the (very) bad times begin.
Peter and Lorna successfully infiltrate the cult (wait till you see the secret handshake ritual), confident that they'll easily expose the fraud, save lives and become famous in the process. And if things were that simple, we wouldn't have a movie. Is the charming but strict Maggie truly working her way into Peter's psyche, or is he deliberately giving her what she wants in order to maintain her trust? Why does she always seem one step ahead of the team's efforts to secretly record her group sessions? Did time travel truly render Maggie's immune system incapable of handling our toxic present, or does she have a better reason to hermetically seal herself into a secret basement?
The trouble, of course, is that if you want to know the cult's secrets, you have to prove yourself to them in various ways... how far are our protagonists willing to go? Would you let a fellow cult member take you far, far out of the way for a surprise round of pistol target practice? And let's say you were a teacher... and your spiritual leader suddenly expressed an interest in one of the students in your charge...?
No spoilers here. This is gripping, believable material performed with conviction and filled with tension and surprises on a tiny budget (as befits the characters).
Those wanting easy answers will leave the theatre quite frustrated. But if it's provocative, think-about-it, talk-about-it entertainment you want, follow the SOUND OF MY VOICE.
As in not off. If you want to post about mainstream flicks, this is the forum.
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