Led by Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the film, and directed with confidence and style by Batmanglij, "Sound of My Voice" is many things at once, a twisty thriller, an examination of how our fears can be preyed upon and an exploration of what happens when the shells we put around our personalities are stripped down. It's the kind of movie that's difficult to discuss without giving away the handful of left turns and surprises that takes the narrative in some unexpected and riveting directions (and don't worry, we won't be spoiling anything here). Last week, we had a chance to chat with Brit Marling about the film, its themes and why the subject of infiltration is one that continues to pop up in her work.
And that scene -- without saying too much -- marks one of a handful of dynamic shifts "Sound of My Voice" takes that makes the two protagonists that we experience the story through (played by Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius) far more complicated and nuanced than they seemed at first glance. "I think a lot of the film is wrestling the idea of honesty and truth and are there noble truths about people, and what are people -- even in a relationship like Peter and Lorna's where they've been together for a while and they're living together -- what do they know about each other and what don't they know," Marling explained about the undercurrents of the picture. "Lorna is shocked by the things that Maggie is able to uncover in Peter in like a half hour, and she's been with her boyfriend for three years and he's never admitted to these things. So I think the movie is really grappling with the idea of, is something even knowable? On one level, can you know a time traveler from a con artist and then on another, do you even know who your girlfriend is? Do you even know who your boyfriend is?"
But for all this talk of truth and infiltration and knowing thyself, Marling and her collaborators are not ones to lose the goal of entertaining an audience. As she tells us, they've long had a desire to make popcorn or genre movies that can also have a depth to them, and subvert audience expectations. "...I think high concept stuff is interesting because it provokes your sense of wonder. And real human drama and interactions between people are interesting because they hopefully tell you something about who are or what it means to be human that didn't know before. I think all three of us -- Mike and Zal and I -- are interested in those things spliced together," she explained. "When we were in college and we would go see films, we'd see big popcorn blockbuster movies and you're sort of aroused and excited by the spectacle. And then you'd go see a great small European drama and you're like 'Ooh, but this makes me feel something deeply and it's unmoored something in me.' And I think the three of us were always shuttling back and forth between those theatres and being like, 'Why can't you mix these together?' 'Why can't you have these high concept ideas and really substantive dramas happening within them?' "
With "Sound of My Voice," Marling and Batmanglij have definitely succeeded in marrying complex ideas into the package of a tightly wound, and crafty thriller. The film opens on April 27th. Read our review here.