Sound of My Voice (Blu-ray)
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 85 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Review Date: October 4, 2012
Documentary filmmakers Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) are interested in the cult phenomenon and find one of interest involving the mysterious “Maggie,” an ethereal young woman who claims to be from 2054 brought to our present time to save the world from its worst impulses and urges. The people she and her minions recruit are carefully screened, but Peter and Lorna are accepted and begin their indoctrination with a group of other people. Maggie demands obedience and has a way of ferreting out the weaknesses of others to use to her advantage, but initially Peter and Lorna see through her machinations. But Peter begins to at least seemingly give himself over to Maggie, and when she demands that he bring a ten year old girl from his class (he’s a substitute teacher to earn money for his films) because she’s actually going to turn out to be Maggie’s mother in the future, Lorna thinks it’s time to leave the group. Peter disagrees, but Lorna isn’t sure if it’s because he wants to see what Maggie really wants with the girl or if it’s because he really is under her spell.
Director Zal Batmanglij co-wrote the screenplay with actress Brit Marling (who plays Maggie), and their story certainly has its moments of authenticity especially in the cult segments with the strangely alluring but also suspicious Maggie. The director captures the quiet intensity of the sessions as we witness more and more of the group give themselves over to Maggie’s suggestions, and we’re also shown some of the elaborate demands made on the group (giving her their blood, eating first organically grown fruit and then other things prepared for her). But the writers skimp a bit of fully fleshing out Peter and Lorna. There are stylized flashbacks to the childhoods of each one of them, but more of these might have given those characters a greater dimension and made them even more audience identifiable. There’s also a subplot involving a member of the justice department who holds some information which she shares with Lorna, but which isn’t shared with the audience even at the climax. Perhaps the writers did this to keep their enigmatic time traveler a mystery, but by not providing the audience with any answers to a less than mesmerizing puzzle, it’s more irritating than it is unsatisfying.
Brit Marling certainly gives Maggie the eerie other-worldliness that might persuade weak-minded souls of her authenticity, but a short scene inside her bed chamber pretty much gives the game away and while showing another side to the actress, doesn’t work strongly in the movie’s behalf. Christopher Denham is very convincing as the strong-willed filmmaker whose façade begins to crumble under Maggie’s spell. His scene when Maggie strips him psychologically naked is brilliantly acted. Nicole Vicius is a little less impressive than her co-stars, but her character as written includes a tiresome jealousy angle that would be fairly well impossible for any actress to play with any freshness.
The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Made on a small budget, the film's images are clear and clean but rarely exemplary. Things look a bit brown and with only good but not great sharpness. Flesh tones likewise seem just a bit overcooked. Black levels, however, are very good. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is very unsophisticated perhaps due to the film’s small budget. There is little activity in the rear channels, but the front soundstage has good spread with sound effects and Rostam Batmanglij’s music. Dialogue which is very important to the film’s impact has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
“The Making of Sound of My Voice” is one of two EPK featurettes included in the package. This one concentrates on director Zal Batmanglij and co-writer/co-star Brit Marling discussing their longtime writing partnership and their ability to go separate ways: he to direct and she to act once the film begins production. It’s in 1080p and runs 4 ¼ minutes.
A featurette on the character of Maggie allows stars Brit Marling, Christopher Denham, and Nicole Vicius along with director Zal Batmanglij a chance to talk about their interpretations of their characters and their involvement with Maggie. This runs 3 minutes in 1080p.
“Fox Movie Channel Presents Direct Effect” gives director Zal Batmanglij 5 minutes to discuss his writing and directing techniques in this 480i featurette.
“Fox Movie Channel Presents Writer’s Draft” does the same thing with co-writer/actress Brit Marling in a 5-minute, 480i piece on her technique of letting her love of acting come from her own writing a character for herself.
The theatrical trailer is in 1080p and runs 2 ½ minutes.
The disc contains promo trailers for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and American Horror Story.
3/5 (not an average)
An average psychological drama that might have made a fine thriller with a different slant to the story, Sound of My Voice will make a decent rental for a viewer interested in a cult story with a twist or two. Just don’t expect to be wowed.