Let's dissect the first twelve minutes of Sound of My Voice, the new film from Fox Searchlight Pictures in association with 1737 Films / Skyscraper.
The first thing I'm going to need you to do is check out the trailer, so you know the context, and then we'll discuss.
So, Peter and Lorna are documentary filmmakers intent on investigating and discrediting a Los Angeles cult leader. And they get a little too wrapped up in it.
I watched the first twelve minutes of Sound of My Voice (and you can too; see below). But here are my thoughts on the three scenes presented in the film's opening:
First, the couple of Peter and Lorna are provided strict instructions on the way to approach and gain entrance to the cult. There's something truly unnerving about the sequence, as they read the rules and are approached by a silent, imposing figure. Don't get out of the car. Remove your possessions. Dress in the garments of followers. Put on a blindfold. The sequence is a balance of follower faith (or risk, as we know that Peter and Lorna are subversives) and cult leader distrust. From this first sequence alone, you immediately want the cult to be brought down. It's a bad thing, and you know it.
We move onto the "entrance exam," as a cult higher-up, Klaus, engages Peter in a sophisticated and undeniably silly dap greeting. Despite all the slapping, fist bumping, and hand-jiving, it's a test that's taken very seriously. Klaus is cold, almost dangerous, as he and Peter perform the greeting. As ludicrous as the experience is, you can read a hint of fear in Peter's expression, until that moment when the greeting is completed, and the once-predatory Klaus becomes a kindly, welcoming older man. The switch is flipped, and Klaus' humanity is turned on. Chilling.
And then… we meet Maggie.
This is how cults grow in power and influence. For all the outlandish behavior, the very obvious and sinister shadiness of it, there's something that appeals, that draws us in. Maggie, quiet and peaceful as she can be, has a magnetism about her — she's mysterious and alluring, fragile and believable. She tells a tale of herself as a victim, lost in the strange and frightening landscape of the Big City (haven't we all been there?). It's a performance that makes us, as viewers, drop our guard. I may not be 100% convinced that Maggie's a time-lost prophet from the future, but I'm compelled to learn more about her.
If the rest of the film can unnerve me and keep me guessing as much as its opening sequence, then Sound of My Voice will have me gladly drinking the Kool-Aid.
Now it's your turn. Let's see if you feel the same. Enjoy the first twelve minutes below.