Sound of My Voice (2011)
The concept is this: A young couple looking to break through as investigative journalists seek out a cult of some sorts, led by a young woman who claims to have been sent from the year 2054. The couple, who start out as sceptics trying to expose a scam, eventually find themselves challenged by the woman, and ultimately by each other and themselves. And so the premise changes: What if she's actually from the future? What does that make them? And who are everyone really?
Star Brit Marling wrote the screenplay together with director Zal Batmanglij (this is the second of the two films Marling had playing at the Sundance Festival in 2011, the other being Another Earth), and it is a playful, sneaking script which raises several interesting questions. The film doesn't have its strength in the portrayal of the Maggie character per se (her speeches are mostly pretty standard cultic self-help babble), but in how our two protagonists Peter and Lorna are affected by their own beliefs. The film asks us to neither dismiss nor trust anyone, and this constant ambiguity is what gives the film the underlying tension that makes it so captivating. There's a pivotal scene in which Maggie induces Peter to break down and open up, and afterwards neither we or his girlfriend know exactly which version to believe; the one he gave Maggie or the one he maintains to her. Does he even himself?
As the end approaches, Sound of My Voice opens up several plot threads at once, and the film shifts from philosophy to clear-cut mystery and the promise of a Keyser Söze moment. Films that are open for interpretation often share some of the same strengths and weaknesses, and whether or not they work often boil down to whether you believe the filmmakers' choice is one of necessity or not. In the case of Sound of My Voice, there are so many subtle hints here and there that the ending encourages you to ponder more than it annoys you and makes you question the script's validity. In short, these characters live on after the end credits. Nothing is negated, nothing is excluded. And although the film isn't completely satisfactory on all levels, there's enough food for thought and enough clever ideas in here to make me look forward to these young filmmakers' next collaboration.
PS! That hypnotic song you hear during the end credits is by British indietronica band Hot Chip.