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Sound of My Voice


Stars: Brit Marling, Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Avery Pohl, Davenia McFadden, Kandice Stroh, Richard Wharton

Director: Zal Batmanglij

The opening of this low-budget science-fiction thriller is intriguing – lovers Denham and Vicius strip, shower and then have their hands bound followed by being blindfolded and then driven to a secret meeting room where their blindfolds are removed and their bonds cut and cult leader Wharton introduces the couple to the group members.

Enter cult leader Marling (also doubling as co-writer with first-time director Batmanglij) who, attached to a trailing oxygen cylinder, introduces herself as having come from the future. She then proceeds to preach to her ‘followers’, speaking a tsunami of new age nonsense which, frankly (no pun intended!), I thought was pure drivel designed to snare easy-to-convince people into the clasp of her cult.

What follows is marginally interesting when it transpires Denham and Vicius are a pair of documentary filmmakers intent on infiltrating the group and exposing Marling as a charlatan. On one occasion, however, when coerced by Marling into eating an apple, Denham, who claims never to have vomited before in his life, throws up the undigested apple pieces and, unfortunately, the hidden camera he had swallowed so as to film the cult proceedings. To my shame, I have been unable to figure out how he would have managed to film anything with a swallowed camera. I must confess that I vigorously erased any ideas that surfaced in my imagination as to potential bodily apertures through which such cinematography might be accomplished.

The climax, such as it is, includes the ‘time traveller’ persuading Denham to kidnap 8-year-old Pohl and bring the child to her and the arbitrary intrusion of a government agent intent on exposing Marling and bringing her to justice…

While I admit there were times when I asked myself “What next?” what came next simply made me wish I hadn’t bothered to ask.

I only hope I haven’t made Sound of My Voice sound too intriguing. It isn’t. While It desperately tries to achieve some measure of seriousness it ends up with all the psychological depth and narrative credibility of a downmarket fortune cookie.

It veers between the banal and the just plain silly, with dialogue and characterisation to match while the ‘dénouement’ simply deflates a story that has long ago run out of gas. Perhaps Marling should have connected her oxygen cylinder to the dying screenplay.

Tyro director Batmanglij ensures that his opus gets the featureless performances it deserves. Had he or Marling had actually been able to travel to the the future they surely would have been able to check the film’s box-office figures and could then saved themselves the bother of making a movie that screams out for filmgoers to be given an anaesthetic (or a fast-forward button).

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
85 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 30 Jul 2012