Somewhere between Martha Marcy May Marlene and Looper lies the innocuous-sounding Sound Of My Voice - an intense, thought-provoking and smart thriller which artfully morphs from discombobulating faux-doc to head-fuck time-travel thriller via a potent study of cults.
It’s a heady and teasing mix for a scrappy little indie made for peanuts, which seemed to be unfairly eclipsed by the more trumpeted MMMM… when both premiered at 2011’s Sundance Film Festival.
Co-written by director Zal Batmanglij and lead Brit Marling, SOMV throws viewers into the attempt by aspiring filmmakers Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) to infiltrate a cult led by ethereal beauty Maggie (Marling, brilliant), who claims to be from the year 2054.
Charismatic and psychologically dextrous, can the two sceptics unveil her? And more pertinently, resist her?
While the similarly-themed but showier The Master is collecting star ratings like acolytes, it’s worth seeking out this grittier, more seductive look at the mechanics of cult devotion.
Watching scenes in which Maggie bullies, breaks and beguiles her subjects to the point of vomiting is powerfully and morbidly fascinating, while the script’s clever twists leave audience alliances all at sea.
Who is taking advantage of whom?
Though the third act gear-change that introduces more questions than answers may frustrate some (Batmanglij has hinted at making further explanatory films within the universe), and an unresolved ending could be interpreted as concepts run aground, those open to surrendering themselves to the process of this sect are promised - if not salvation - an exhilarating experience.