Joshua Reviews Zal Batmanglij’s The Sound Of My Voice [Blu-ray Review]

Very few cinematic entities have hit the scene with as strong and assured a sense of style and aesthetic as writer/actress Brit Marling. Hitting the independent world with a pair of indie darlings in Another Earth and the recently-released-on-Blu-ray Sound Of My Voice, Marling is slowly becoming one of the most sought after and beloved names within the indie and art house scene for her odd charisma and natural beauty.

Now, while her work on Another Earth may have been overshadowed by a bloated and wholly self-important narrative and histrionic filmmaking, Sound has become one of 2012’s most beloved releases. And for good measure, as it’s a beautifully crafted psychological thriller, one of the best the genre has to offer this calendar year.

Penned by Marling and director Zal Batmanglij, the film’s premise is relatively simple. Starring the pair of Christopher Denham (last seen in Ben Affleck’s masterful Argo) and Nicole Vicius, the film finds two investigative journalists (I know, they still exist apparently) stuck in the middle of a cult led by the alleged time traveler played by Marling. However innocent it may seem at the start, the more time the viewer spends with these people, the more one becomes privy to the fact that there is something truly troubling brewing below the surface. As the two become more and more involved, the web becomes tougher and tougher to escape, culminating in nearly 90 minutes of edge-of-your-seat chills, despite the lack of any real action taking place.

Bred entirely by the screenplay, the greatest aspect of Sound of my Voice is its ability to set a tone and a mood. Marling and Batmanglij’s screenplay is really superb, becoming a slowly burning thriller that slowly reveals more and more about the intentions of everyone involved. Be it the brooding sequences within the meetings of this cult, or a Zodiac-esque setpiece set outside in a dense forest, the film is driven almost entirely by tone and mood.

Batmanglij, visually, also crafts a solid anti-thriller. Allowing a distinctly science-fiction oriented narrative to have some odd sense of believability by never giving too much credence to the occurrences on screen (save for, arguably, a moment near the film’s conclusion), the film itself is a low-budget chiller with a gritty sense of realism and quiet. It’s in these quiet moments that the film truly thrives. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography is something to truly behold, as is director Zal’s brother, Rostam’s, score for the picture. It’s a hypnotic piece of music that pairs perfectly with the equally mesmerizing aesthetic and screenplay.

Marling, however, is the real star. Be it her hand in the solid script or her thrilling performance as the cult leader, she proves with this picture (far more than Earth) that she is a force to be reckoned with. There is a sense of truth behind her eyes that while she is movie-star gorgeous, she never comes off as anything more than human. The leads here, Denham and Vicius, are great here, but are decidedly overshadowed by their leader here, particularly due to the lack of chemistry between their characters. The relationship never truly feels like it has high stakes here, making it a hard pairing to really crack into.

Overall, while the film itself may seem a tad self indulgent and arguably even a tad pretentious, Sound of my Voice is a chilling neo-sci-fi thriller that will stick with the viewer far after seeing the picture. Featuring gorgeous cinematography and a top tier screenplay, the film, now available on Blu-ray (featuring interviews with the co-writers and even a solid making-of documentary), is one that will make this frigid Fall even far more chilling.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.