Puzzling ‘Voice’ likely to prompt discussions

  • Wed May 2nd, 2012 3:27pm
  • Life

By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic

If you are a young filmmaker looking to get some kind of traction in a crowded field, it’s not a bad idea to make something that (a) makes an audience scratch its collective head in puzzlement, and (b) makes an audience want to know more about what they just saw.

“Sound of my Voice” is a movie destined to cause discussion, both in the car on the way home and later in Internet discussion-board noodling. And if there’s something a little calculated about the way it presents its mystery, well, you can’t blame filmmakers for trying to get traction.

The filmmakers are star and co-writer Brit Marling and director and co-writer Zal Batmanglij. Their movie begins with a wonderfully tantalizing lack of exposition: We watch a young couple, Peter and Lorna (played by Christopher Denham and Lorna Vicius), enter into what appears to be a cult of some sort. They are picked up at their home and taken — blindfolded — to an undisclosed basement, where a group of acolytes are kneeling in a circle.

The attraction is a woman from the future. 2054, to be exact. Her name is Maggie, played by Marling, and she has something to tell the people of the early 21st century.

The thin backbone for the plot (mild spoilers here) has Peter and Lorna pursuing an investigative story that will expose the cult — if it is a cult. But the movie would very much like you to start wondering whether the serene, eerily focused Maggie might actually be from the future.

There’s something interesting happening here: The movie plays with the allure of a cult, by using some of the tools of the cult leader on us. The movie audience, like a cult prospect, would like to believe in something, have faith, keep hope alive.

And director Batmanglij’s quiet, steady approach is just right for this kind of thing. The film moves in the same slow, understated tones that Maggie uses when she speaks in her hypnotic drone.

As much as the tone is pleasing, and as much as I like a good last-minute zinger, I was left with the feeling that “Sound of my Voice” is a clever set-up in search of development.

A good barometer for your own enjoyment of the movie might be your reaction to last year’s “Another Earth,” a similar mind-bender that also starred and was co-written by Marling. Her measured onscreen presence goes a long way toward keeping “Sound of my Voice” intriguing. Is Maggie sincere, fraudulent or crazy? Marling plays it so that you can never be entirely certain.

“Sound of my Voice” (2½ stars)

Two young people enter into a cultlike group, whose central figure (co-writer Brit Marling) claims to be a visitor from the future. The film might be a little too calculated in its games-playing, but Marling (who also starred in the similar mind-bender “Another Earth”) is a serene, eerie presence.

Rating: R, for language, subject matter.

Showing: Guild 45th theater.