Be Thorough With the Soap: The First 12 Minutes of “Sound of My Voice”

Fox Searchlight premiered the first twelve minutes of upcoming indie release Sound of My Voice online yesterday, which comprise the first of eleven “chapters” in the film. I’m not sure what that really means in terms of the film’s structure– are all of the chapters equal in length?– and I don’t know that everyone will want to experience the film’s bits and pieces before watching the theatrical release in April, but for curious viewers this is absolutely worth checking out. After writer-star Brit Marling’s Another Earth was met with such a negative reception last year, it’ll be interesting to see how critics respond to Sound of My Voice, but I can say with certainty that the footage has dissolved any trepidation I felt about the project myself. (Despite having not yet seenAnother Earth.)

Sound of My Voice follows a couple (Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius), who happen to also be a documentary filmmaking team, as they infiltrate a cult being led by a young woman named Maggie (Marling). Their goal is to reveal Maggie as a charlatan and a con artist leading her followers on with lies; as anyone likely can imagine, their mission hits a few speed bumps along the way as they learn more about Maggie and their relationship begins to splinter.

A dozen minutes on paper doesn’t sound like much to write home about, but a surprising amount of plot happens in the proffered chapter. In the first few minutes alone, Peter (Denham) and Lorna (Vicius) arrive at a house where a cult member relieves them of their belongings before giving them clothing and instructing them to shower. (We learn later on in the clip that this is a required precaution for being in Maggie’s presence. Soon, the pair are being inducted into the cult using a complicated and oddly child-like secret handshake (depicted stage by stage in the film’s poster)– and then we all get to meet Maggie, who tells us her story before our twelve minutes are up.

Put simply, I like what I’ve seen here. There doesn’t appear to be any build-up or lead-in to Peter and Lorna showing up at the cultist’s house and being brought into the fold with Maggie and her right-hand man, Klaus; in fact, Klaus even has a throwaway line about how the couple prepared far in advance for their entrance into the cult. So I don’t imagine we’ll spend much, if any, time learning what Peter and Lorna did to earn their admission– which can only be a good thing, I think. The clip has an economy of plotting and pacing, and if it suggests anything it’s that Sound of My Voice will move fluidly and waste little time progressing its narrative and carrying us toward whatever the climax has in store.

I’m most interested in seeing how the film resonates today. Certainly there hasn’t been a David Koresh or Marshall Applewhite type in our societal midst in quite some time, but Harold Camping’s shenanigans about Rapture predictions rings close enough– even if nobody died as a result of Camping’s negligence and ignorance. Sound of My Voice features elements even in just the first twelve minutes that echo aspects of Camping’s doomsday preaching, specifically that of the cult followers relinquishing their worldly possessions in the name of the cause, but I wonder how much more the film will call back to these real-life stories, or if it will explore other themes instead.

So, what do you all think? Is this preview chapter of Zal Batmanglij’s film promising, or does the footage do nothing for you? Where would you like to see the rest of the story go? Sound off in the comments section!

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