Another Earth and now Sound Of My Voice have put Brit Marling on my radar as a talent to watch. She writes and stars in both and while Another Earth was an impressive debut, her writing seems to be getting better, more confident and more interesting. Both films are classed as sci-fi, but Marling’s version of sci-fi eschews robots, aliens and special effects for more human stories; stories of what ifs, hows and whys. She takes things slightly outside the realms of possibility and brings them into her gritty, low-fi reality. She tells stories about how characters deal with these events and impossibilities rather than focusing on the events themselves. The focus of these films is always character rather than the outside forces. This approach to the genre makes Marling an exciting and intriguing talent.
Sound Of My Voice follows a couple of amateur investigative journalists, Peter and Lorna (Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius) as they infiltrate a small cult that gather in the basement of a suburban house to praise and listen to a girl (Marling) who claims to be from the year 2054. As previously stated the film relies on realism and a low-fi approach. This helps us to really get into the film and relate to the characters on a deeper level. The brilliant thing about this film is that we are never sure where we stand. Good or bad, true or false, we aren’t sure of anyone or anything. We are almost in the same position as our protagonists. We are given information as we go along but nothing is ever proven or disproven, questions go unanswered. We are left to make up our own minds about what’s really going on and who’s hiding information or giving misinformation. At the beginning it seems clear-cut that Marling cannot be from the future and so she will be exposed. However, throughout the film we question all characters’ motivations and actions. This film deals with grey areas and really makes you think about everything you see, hear and believe.
There is a scene about half way through that is in equal measure one of the most tense and disgusting scenes I’ve seen in recent times. Members of the cult are ordered to stand in a circle and vomit on command. Peter has previously swallowed a small camera in order to get it into the building. He refuses to vomit and risks being found out or thrown out of the group. While it’s not the most pleasant thing to watch it is a scene that will stay in your memory for one reason or another.
The ending is purposely open ended and is likely to divide people. Not because it’s bad or a cop-out, like some critics have suggested, but because it depends on your opinions, beliefs and faith. The ending is in no way definitive one way or another. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. That, I think, is the genius of this film and Marling’s script; it asks more questions than it answers. There are whole scenes and characters that seem to be pointless and go nowhere. We are given slivers of information and left to decipher it for ourselves. We have to piece together the puzzle but also add in our own beliefs and opinions. This is a film that needs and deserves to be viewed twice (if not more) and the great thing is that whether you believe or not you are given enough information and enough doubt that either stance can be viewed and argued as correct. Sound Of My Voice demands intelligence and thought from its audience. Unanswered questions aren’t there simply for the sake of it. They aren’t silly, hollow and pointlessly added like in Prometheus or Lost (both by Damon Lindelof), they are purposefully added to gain a reaction from the audience.
There are no characters in Sound Of My Voice who we can definitively believe are who they say they are or what their motivations are. Our investigative journalist couple never actually document or expose anything going on in the cult so why are they really there? Leader of the cult, Marling, claims to be from 2054; why? Why gather this small group of people? For what purpose? There is a character who claims to be from the Department of Justice but her actions make us question this. Who is she? What is her involvement? What is her aim? And then there’s a little girl who at first seems to be insignificant but by the end becomes key to the story. What’s her relevance? Who is she really? Why is she important? These questions are never answered by the time the credits roll; it’s up to each individual audience member to answer these questions themselves.
Marling’s performance may not be as entrancing and the subject matter not as emotionally relatable or engaging as her previous effort Another Earth but what Sound Of My Voice lacks in emotional impact it makes up for in intelligence and originality. I highly recommend both films. With these films Brit Marling has become the most unique, interesting and exciting talent to emerge in 2012.