Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sound of My Voice (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Sound of My Voice

"Sound of My Voice" plunges us deep in an obsessional space and there are no easy answers. Many will be tempted to call this film a thriller, a spook show, or a "Twilight Zone" Saturday chiller. While it has these aspects in it, it is really none of these things. This film slips and slides and seems to toy with the audience, intentionally moving to satisfy our desire for convention, only to pull away. In mood, "Sound of My Voice"  resembles the claustrophobia and peer pressure of Roman Polanski, but even this illustration doesn't do it justice. There is more than a bit of melancholic dark humor within this film, the mark of Mike Cahill's "Another Earth" is clearly seen as well as Baumbach's "Greenberg" and Jay Duplass' "Jeff Who Lives at Home".

Rather than a post Millenial Woody Allen character study, however, we are now in the life of a cult. Peter (Christopher Denham) is an elementary school teacher who has an ambition to make a documentary film about cults. Somehow Peter and his girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) get an Internet tip that one Maggie is a delusional zealot from the future who is amassing followers.

We are plunged in the action immediately. We see blindfolds, white spaces and bottles of chemicals. Are these two going to be killed instantly? We do not know. They are taken to a blinding corridor and told to make no sudden moves. Then we see a pair of bare feet ominously rolling an oxygen tank across the smooth floor. Who is this person? Is he / she sick or hideously deformed. The being is wrapped in white. The tank reminds us of one terminally Ill and we may well fear the worst. The sheet is pulled back to reveal the innocent, peaceful and cream-complexioned face of Maggie (Brit Marling) a young ingenue presumably from the year 2050. 

Right away we sense that life in this small room is not all that much fun and even scary. The other members frequently look puffy and moist as if they have just finished their periodic crying bout. We see strange and needlessly long handshakes that would seem like something out of The Three Stooges were it not for the odd sinister silences that punctuate each gesture. For the most part we are left in the dark as too the cult's importance or meaning. What it stands for is anybody's guess. 

Most provocative is Britt Marling here in her portrayal of Maggie who is equally compassionate, gentle and brutal as she tells people to vomit on command. This scene is probably the most difficult to watch, but those who hold out will be entertained by sleight of hand if not revelation.
This is not a shock film or a seat jumper but rather a curious dream that is well worth watching. More than once for some reason, I was reminded of clinics and hospitals. Just when you see the character of Maggie one way, she shifts and turns, even twisting her back as if repelled by us, her third audience. 

Through my research, as the director Zal Batmangilij, Mike Cahill and Brit Marling have all worked together on projects, these three can be seen as single minded pioneers, breaking new ground just as Sam Pekinpah, Roman Polanski and William Friedkin seared the limits of cellulose before them. 

Taken as a group of three, Zal Batmangilij, Mike Cahill and Brit Marling are this decade's Paradox Pack. They confound as much as they entertain and have the ability to turn the sonatas of our lives into knots. Yet delight they do by giving us occasional visual snaps relating to each character and condition. These moments like the light of the Unexpected, fall upon us as poetry, rich in riddles with angles all oblique.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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