The film follows a journalist and his girlfriend as they covertly investigate the enigmatic cult leader Maggie, played by Marling. The opening section of the film is a ballsy move, largely revolving around an extended monologue by Maggie about her background before revealing where she comes from, ending the clip on a helluva cliffhanger. We asked Batmanglij about how he worked with Marling to perfect this moment of the film, which is crucial in establishing the cult leader. "We worked on it quite a bit," he explained, saying that he and Marling would talk the story out as they wrote. "How could we get it to feel really real to us? What would someone have to say to us to make us believe -- even though we're not believers." But Batmanglij credits the magnestism of Maggie to Marling's intangible qualities as an actress, whose performance he praises.
"Maggie is just an interesting person and if you were blindfolded and plastic cuffed and ferried in the back of a van from one suburban tract house to another and you appeared in the garage and were led down to this basement where all these people are sort of meditating in white and then this woman comes out...and because it's Brit and because she has this quality that makes you lean in, the possiblity of what she's saying [being true] comes out," he explains.
In the midst of this gripping sequence as we are led down the rabbit hole into the strange basement where the members of the cult are gathered, a strange and comedic handshake is exchanged, something that has become a focal point of the flim's early marketing (see the poster below). But it's not just a throwaway laugh, but instead informs the foundation of what the movie will explore. "A lot of the story is a lot about family and we were feeling alienated, and what is a cult other than an extreme version of a constructed family," Batmanglij said. "And so the rituals for getting in are all part of like, 'Are you inside the famly, are you inside the group or are you on the outside?' And so if you're willing to submit to the blindfold and the plastic cuff, then you're showing their solidarity with the family or group. And the handshake is a test to see if you belong."
If you think showing off so much of the movie beforehand is giving away too much, it's just a small taste. However, Batmanglij insists you won't want to be strolling into the theater a few weeks after it opens to check it out because the surprises that are in store, are something you'll want to experience fresh, not hear about secondhand. "It's so cool if someone stumbles upon this and doesn't know anything about it. And I think if they do, they shouldn't do any more research and wait until April 27th and go see it with a couple friends. After this Playlist article, don't read anymore articles about it," he laughed. "Just go see it April 27th with a group of people and make sure you see it before other people start talking about it, because there are lots of other twists and turns that people will start writing about."
Watch the first 12 minutes below courtesy of /Film and you'll be convinced. "The Sound Of My Voice" opens on April 27th.