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Film / Sound of My Voice

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Sound of My Voice is a 2011 American thriller directed by Zal Batmanglij and starring Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius and Brit Marling. It was co-written by Batmanglij and Marling.

The plot concerns a couple, Peter and Lorna, who are trying to film an indie documentary on cults. They get themselves recruited into a mysterious cult led by Maggie, who claims to be a time traveler from a post-apocalyptic future. Things don't go as planned.

This film features the following tropes:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: What exactly is wrong with Abigail is not stated.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Was Maggie really from the future or not? There's evidence on either side.
  • Becoming the Mask: Peter wants to expose Maggie, but the further along he gets, the more of a true believer he becomes.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Subverted when Lorna is taught how to shoot a pistol and proves to be a crack shot. She rejects the cult, and there is no violence from her or the cult members. It just makes the cult seem creepier and more dangerous. Played straight with the Secret Handshake.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Lorna becomes upset the moment she notices that Peter is getting attracted to Maggie.
  • Cult: Maggie is the spiritual leader of a cult, claiming to be from the post-apocalyptic year 2054, and is recruiting followers to help rebuild society. Peter's mother was in a cult and died because of its prohibition against Western medicine, which is why he, at first, wants to expose Maggie's cult.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Peter and Lorna each get flashback montages of their backgrounds, establishing their motives for making the film.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Maggie has her followers eat live earthworms to show their commitment and to teach them to be ready to eat anything when resources are limited.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Lorna had her first hangover at 12. She lived an early life of decadence before straightening out and trying to become a writer/filmmaker.
  • Godiva Hair: When Maggie emerges naked from a bath tub, her long blonde hair covers her breasts.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Lorna notes that Maggie is attractive and suspects that Peter is developing feelings for her.
  • In Love with the Mark: Lorna accuses Peter that he's falling for Maggie near the movie's end.
  • Kid from the Future: Maggie claims that she is one. Specifically, the kid of one of Peter's students.
  • Left Hanging: The viewer is left questioning just about everything:
    • Is Maggie really from the future, and is Abigail her mother? If so, why couldn't she think of a single song that was written after 2010?
    • What's wrong with Abigail? Why does she seem to have narcolepsy? Why does she always wear a hat? Why does she build strange sculptures solely from black legos? What kind of shots was her father giving her? Did she need them?
    • Was Carol really from the Justice Department? If so, why does she smuggle her files in clothing boxes? Why does she screen her hotel room for bugs? Why didn't any of the police who arrested Maggie stay around to take statements from anyone else at the scene?
  • Mind Screw: Did Maggie really came from the future? The entire film never dips into fantasy territory, but the final scene heavily implies she really did.
  • Naked on Arrival: Maggie wakes up naked on a bathtub after she time traveled, or so she says.
  • Not So Above It All: Maggie casually reveals to Peter that she smokes.
  • Secret Handshake: Cult members must learn and perform an elaborate secret handshake before any audience with Maggie. It turns out that this handshake was invented by Maggie's "mother," who is a small child in the current year. It's left ambiguous as to whether this is really how Maggie knows the handshake.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: Maggie's cult is very secretive. Only a select few know where she is located. It's not clear how they recruit their members, as people who join have no idea what they're joining.
  • Serious Business: The elaborate Secret Handshake required from each member has sequences that look like a typical "patty cake" children's game. In fact, the handshake was invented by a child.
  • Shout-Out: When asked to sing a song from the future, Maggie sings "Dreams" by The Cranberries. When called out on it, she explains that she doesn't know when the song was first written, but it's popular in her time.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Maggie doesn't claim that she or her followers can stop the apocalypse. All she says she wants to do is recruit followers who will be able to survive in the world that follows.
  • Time Travel: Maggie claims she's from the year 2054, which is a post-apocalyptic future. She never explains how she traveled back in time, saying that she only remembers waking up in a bath tub in the recent past.
  • Title Drop: Maggie drops the words of the title in one of her sermons.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Based on Maggie's statements about time, this trope applies. She never suggests that any of her cult members can change the events that cause society to break down. She can only give a select few people the skills they'll need to prosper when it does. She also states that she's already met most of the people in her cult in the future, and says that the reason she kicks one man out is because she'd never met him, meaning he was always going to drop out at some point.