In “Sound of My Voice,” Brit Marling makes an unforgettable entrance, with blond hair spilling out from a white hood and an oxygen tank plugged into her nose.
She tops that look with a stunning declaration, playing Maggie, the leader of a cultlike organization, who may or may not be a dangerous crackpot. This psychological thriller leaves the notion open to interpretation.
Even better than her entrance is a scene with Peter (Christopher Denham), a young man who, with girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius), has infiltrated Maggie’s group in the hopes of making a documentary about cults.
Maggie coaxes Peter into undergoing a cleansing ritual he initially refuses, touches her forehead to his, and, after a series of questions and statements, cracks him open like a blubbering, purging coconut.
Yet Marling is more than a dramatic presence. She co-wrote the screenplay with director Zal Batmanglij and created the mysterious, powerful, showy character of Maggie for herself. With raw skill and charisma, she turns in one of this year’s best performances.
Marling and Batmanglij’s tantalizing mystery story, broken into 10 “chapters,” has puzzling scenes that at times seem unconnected. But like a B movie, “Sound of My Voice” embraces its grayish, washed-out, low-budget video look.
Batmanglij paces the movie quickly, paying it off with a nifty zinger before viewers have a chance to catch their breath.
The biggest impression is made by Marling, who wrote and played a different type of vivid character — small, aching, thoughtful — in “Another Earth” last year.
While casting in Hollywood is focusing more and more on looks and marketing rather than talent and personality, Marling is to be admired for doing something about it.
Sound of My Voice
Starring Brit Marling, Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Davenia McFadden
Written by Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Running time 1 hour, 25 minutes