The opening sequence of The Sound of Voice is as tense and effective as movies can get. The film doesn’t slowly build characters or give motive and backstory but just throws the audience and the two central characters straight into the main focus of the story. The fact that without context, none of anything seems to make much sense, just adds to the tense, quiet and awkwardness of the opening scenes. You begin engrossed and are never less than that for the rest of the movie.
It is these intensely quiet, patient and focused scenes which make The Sound of My Voice so compelling. The decision to use music sparingly is a great one and when all you have is the sound of chanting, one solitary voice or in one of the more gruesome scenes, vomiting, the gravity of the situations our main characters find themselves is increased so much more.
There are no “big set-pieces” in The Sound of My Voice. The film plays everything small and intimate which makes the realism of the situation so much more believable. It helps that the three central characters are cast so well and underplay everything brilliantly. Aside from the occasional argument, this is a quiet movie, of subtle performances.
One scene in particular highlights this more than others. Having just consumed an apple, documentary maker Christopher Denham clashes with “cult” leader Brit Marling. The occasional raised voice, barked order and then slow, methodical manipulation makes this scene the stand-out, as well as a terrifying one. It showcases when this film is at it’s most effective and it’s biggest strength; Brit Marling’s intoxicating Maggie.
The film does well to keep Maggie’s true story and intentions a secret. The audience are as in the dark as the two secret documentary makers we are following and at times you begin to see the appeal of such a captivating individual. Other times you will be questioning the decisions of people and their beliefs based on Maggie’s actions. It’s a film that you will keep you thinking and inspire conversation afterwards, like many great movies do.
Unfortunately, in an attempt to keep that sense of mystery and inspire debate after the credits roll, the ending is ambiguous. I don’t really mind an ambiguous ending but this one is both signposted long before it is delivered as well as being too ambiguous. The ending makes little sense, especially when other “clues” to who Maggie is have been released beforehand. You may find yourself slightly cheated, wanting one or two more scenes to try to place a few more concrete facts in place before we are left to make our own minds up.
Overall, Brit Marling has crafted a very compelling movie which will leave you thinking long after the credits have rolled. The film is tense, terrifying and engrossing, holding your attention as you try to unravel the bizarre mystery at it’s core. Unfortunately, long before you come to any concrete answers, the film ends, with an ending more infuriating than satisfying.
Rating – 4
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