Title: Sound of My Voice (2012)
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Cast: Brit Marling, Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius
To me, religion is a mental state that one reaches when one searches for the meaning of life; when one searches for the answers to all those unanswerable questions. The universe we live in is so vast and complex that by nature it is filled with many of these unanswerable questions. We humans, being the thinking creatures we are find it difficult to believe that some questions out there simply have no answers. We like to know where we stand; let’s face it, we want to know it all don’t we? Sadly, the truth is we simply do not know the answers to everything. This ‘not knowing’ creates a void in our lives, a void that some of us cannot stand; so in order to continue with our lives we’ve gone and created answers to these unanswerable questions; fake answers, but they do fill the void. They do put the mind at ease, after all, existentialism can be harsh on the human mind! These fake answers are what we call religion. You can choose to believe in them, or not.
Sad part is that there are certain fruit cakes out there that know how religion works and how to take advantage of others by using it. These low lives thrive in taking advantage of peoples needs for answers, peoples need for purpose. They’ll tell you what you want to hear, they’ll make up a fantastical tale that will consume your soul, and since you need that void filled, you completely fall for it, hook, line and sinker. The depths to which you’ll sink is entirely up to you, and a lot will depend on your mental strength, if you are easily led astray you could fall for these teachings. This is why I am a supporter of the analytical and inquisitive mind. I am of the idea that we should never accept things they way they are given to us, that we must always analyze what we are presented with, in my mind I think we should always question. Nothing is too sacred to question it. If you cannot question it, then something is definitely wrong. Blind acceptance is NEVER a good thing. This is one of the themes that Sound of My Voice explores, the idea that we should never believe blindly in anything.
There’s always those of us out there that understand and see religion for what it is. In a way, it is a basic human need. The need to assign authorship of the universe, of the world we live in, of life…to something, to someone. This is an idea that has been explored in a lot of films, most recently in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012). Logic tells us that there has to be something bigger, that everything we know must have come from somewhere. Someone must have decided that trees would clean oxygen for us, that we should have sun during the day and moonlight during night. Someone must have come up with the idea that we’d need water to drink; food to eat, it seems that the planet was perfectly made to sustain us…logic tells us that everything is too perfectly set in the world for us not to believe in something. But it’s like I always say, just because we don’t know how everything came to be, does not mean we have to make answers up. The real answer still lies out there, just beyond our reach. We can create different hypotheses for the origins of life, but the truth is we just don’t know. Until we find out; until we truly know, I think it’s safe to say, we should just accept the mystery of it all, embrace it.
Sound of My Voice analyzes how religion asks you to believe, blindly, without a strand of proof on things that make no sense whatsoever. This is otherwise known as faith; which is why I never really separate cults from any old religion, to me they are one and the same. Cult is just another word for religion. A cult is a religion, a religion is a cult. What is supposed to differentiate cults from old religions is that they incur in practices that are strange or bizarre. To be honest, all forms of religion have a strange or bizarre element to them. Mormons have to wear a special kind of underwear to have sex for Christ sake! What about talking in tongues, is that not strange and bizarre? Religions, cults, or whatever you want to call them are simply a way of thinking and living that they want you to accept. How similar are cults and age old religions? They don’t want you to question, they don’t want you to analyze, they simply want you to cleanse your mind from all critical thought. What they want is for you to hand your mind (and money) over to them. In Sound of My Voice, the cult leader is this woman known as Maggie, who says she is from the year 2054, and that all sorts of bad things are awaiting humanity in the future. If you follow her, she will lead you to salvation from the coming apocalypse. She’s got secrets from the future which will help her lead you to safety, typical cult leader behavior. She lives in a basement, breathes out of an oxygen thank and she’s amassing followers, which confirms the fact that anyone can come up with the lamest idea and surely enough, someone will believe it and follow.
The way the film is structured, it’s got great suspense to it. The two filmmakers who want to make a documentary about Maggie’s cult in order to expose them, seem naïve enough; we feel like they are actually putting themselves in peril for their film. Their idea is to infiltrate the cult and film some of the cults secret activities. That’s another thing about cults, they don’t like for people to know what’s going on within their gatherings. This is so because they know that their activities would be labeled as crazy by the rest of the world. But that’s what Sound of My Voice does; it takes us right in there, right in the middle of this crazy cult that worships this woman from the future. I enjoyed how the film analyzes some of the crazy behavior that goes on within certain religions, like say for example this whole ‘speaking in tongues’ thing that we find in some Christian sects is so totally nuts! It’s like letting your brain just totally go and handing it over to somebody else. The whole idea of trying to get people to be ‘perfect’ which of course is something impossible to achieve, because life isn’t perfect. It’s made up of one misstep after another; the idea that religious leaders lie to their flock and that if you ask enough questions, said lies will surface clear as water. Loved how the film touches upon these themes.
The only real problem for me with this movie was Brit Marling, the actress who plays the religious leader. You get the feeling that had the role been played by a more experienced actress, it might have worked better. Her performance, in my book, was not the best thing about the film. Also, the ending kind of leaves you hanging, you left wanting a bigger revelation. But keeping things simply is understandable when we take in consideration that this film was made with very little money. Most of the film takes place entirely in one room! But here’s the thing, the screenplay is so interesting, and the Maggie character gets freakier and freakier as time passes by, that I let that go and just went with the flow; which of course says good things about the writing for this film, which by the way was done by Brit Marling herself, along with the films director, Zal Batmanglij. So in many ways, what we have here is a religion bashing film that at the same time isn’t. The same thing happens with Prometheus for example or The Last Exorcism (2010). These are films that portray Christianity as being false, yet at the same time they don’t entirely bash it. They kind of play it safe that way by validating both schools of thought, keeping both the believers and the unbelievers happy. I suspect this is merely done to avoid getting boycotted or blacklisted by believers, but in the end, what this kind of film really wants to do is make the believers question their believes, expose them to the possibility that what they’ve been taught their whole lives has always been one big fat fairy tale.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5