While most of Sundance has been talking about break-out star (and hidden Olsen sister) Elizabeth Olsen, a girl by the name of Brit Marling is simultaneously catapulting herself to Sundance super stardom. Both Marling ('Another Earth,' 'Sound of My Voice') and Olsen ('Silent House,' 'Martha Marcy May Marlene') appear in two films at the 2011 festival, but Marling stands out a touch more because she also co-wrote and produced both the films she starred in. Not only that, but both her films are two of the best screening at this year's festival.
Marling represents an interesting new crop of talent; one who's watched the DIY "Mumblecore" movement grow, has learned from its mistakes, missteps and, at times, meandering messiness, and has taken it to the next, logical level by concentrating heavily on creating grounded, relatable relationship stories while surrounding them with an intriguing genre element. 'Another Earth' (read our review) featured the relationship between a devastated girl (played by Marling) and the man whose family she accidentally killed, all set to the backdrop of the discovery of a second planet Earth. Meanwhile, 'Sound of My Voice' tells of two people who attempt to infiltrate a cult and secretly film a documentary about the woman in charge. A woman, mind you, who claims to be from the future.
Maggie (Marling) claims to be from the year 2054 -- sent back in time in order to protect "the chosen ones" from the awful events that are about to occur. As such, she's already recruited a number of disenchanted folks to join her "cult," where they're put through a rigorous system of cleansing and purifying themselves both physically and spiritually on a daily basis. The group's members also assist Maggie, who for some reason needs daily blood transfusions and can only eat food that's organically grown indoors by the group.
Peter and Lorna are a couple intent on exposing Maggie for the fraud that she is, and somehow they're able to infiltrate the group as potential new members with some high-tech, undetectable recording devices. But as the duo spend more and more time with Maggie and her believers, their relationship soon becomes strained -- Maggie begins to penetrate Peter emotionally, exposing a secret past that explains what brought him there in the first place.
Both Marling roles are complete opposites of one another. In 'Another Earth' she's weak, lonely, isolated and searching for answers. Here, in 'Sound of My Voice,' she's powerful, manipulative, quietly seductive and in possession of all the answers. While 'Another Earth' seems to be about exposing the fraud within ourselves, 'Sound of My Voice' is about exposing the fraud in others, and, whether Marling planned this or not, they're fantastic companion pieces.
'Sound of My Voice,' however, is slightly more successful in its execution, if only because the high-concept is more directly woven into the story line. For example, in 'Another Earth,' if you remove the other Earth aspect from the film, you still have the relationship story. With 'Sound of My Voice' you can't do that -- everything is intricately tied together into one unbelievably engrossing narrative that keeps you guessing until the very last second (and possibly beyond). Is Maggie from the future, or is she simply scamming everyone who crosses her path? That's the biggest question in the film, and Marling -- along with her co-writer and first-time director Zal Batmanglij -- provide the most brilliant answer that will have you talking long after the end credits roll.