Friday, December 28, 2012


Peter and Lorna are would be investigative documentarians who have infiltrated a cult headed by a woman who claims to be from the future. We first see the couple undergoing the strident security measures that take them from the controllable world into the controlled environment of Maggie and her followers, a journey that takes them from the familiar colour palette of the cityscape at night to a golden germ-free intimacy.

The first point of establishment here is that of the pair's skepticism. The good thing here is that it is shown to be shaky from the word go. Not shaken yet, but sufficiently touched by Maggie's charisma to have enjoyed the experience. From there it's a question of who will break. We are given sudden psychological histories of both Peter and Lorna in what looks like old super 8 and narrated by a voice we can't quite identify. Both people are candidates for cracking under the weight of personal force and Maggie proves to be a powerful one. Is she faking it or is this how someone from the future would act? In a series of very strong moments where Maggie's claim might become indelible or disintegrate in a breath. Is she a very good manipulator who can ad lib with genius or are her frequent pauses in the face of difficulty just a natural personal regrouping?

There is a moment in the climax that might answer your questions either way.

That's all the plot I'm going to give because there isn't much more than that. But then it doesn't need heavy plotting. The situation is so intriguing that just being there in it is compelling enough. This is supported by two things which raise it above its indie origins: performance and mise en scene.

The performances in this piece are set like gems in metal. There is nothing acting school or awkward about them. At the centre Britt Marling (co-writer of the screenplay and destined for greatness in indieville and probably in a higher profile realm as well) has an intimidating confidence which when challenged, though it betrays strain, returns fire. She is a golden idol with a voice that would probably feel amplified in person. She makes Maggie a quietly terrifying figure, using her natural beauty as a kind of carrier wave.

The elements of the frame, particularly in Maggie's house are put to curious effect being (by tight framing on characters) almost breathlessly intimate but also warm and parental. This is not claustrophobic but comforting. I mean to the viewer; bugger the cult members. It is very easy to imagine the opioid fall into trust and surrender here.

My ideas for independent cinema were informed by the force that guided my generation's culture: punk. Under that aesthetic the more ragged the better as long as sincerity was maintained. This made for over a decade of tatty good intentions among which were small handfuls of treasure. But with video technology that looks richer than the celluloid that felt the light of Liquid Sky or Down by Law the game has both changed (because of the quality it reaches) and developed on its own line (like the French New Wave and the affordable Arriflex cameras and gleeful use of non standard film formats). And with an 85 minute running time and others like Martha Marcy May Marlene's 102 minutes, could we be seeing a return to a Goldilocks era of just right films from an indie scene that now provides a sheen as marketable as its multimillion dollar big business cousin? Hope so.

I missed Sound of My Voice at the cinema because I only heard about it after its run had finished. Like Martha .. I wish I had seen it in the dark with an audience. As good as was the blu-ray that I watched it on this is another that would feel best seen with the minds of nearby strangers. See also Beasts of the Southern Wild, Safety Not Guaranteed and Robot and Frank. Things are looking up again and they're happening at a cinema near you. At least that's what it feels like. And for the moment that might well be good enough.

1 comment:

  1. PS - another film I marked for MIFF but had to miss courtesy my broken leg. Man I missed a good festival