Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Sound of My Voice": Brit Marling poses another puzzle, this time with the time paradox rather than another earth

Friday night, April 27, the AMC Loews Georgetown in Washington offered a director’s Q&A after a special premier of the sci-fi film “Sound of My Voice”, from Sundance and FilmfestDC. The director is Zat Batmanglij, and the 85 minute film was written by him and Brit Marling, who wrote the spiritually similar “Another Earth” (July 31, 2011 here).  As with the other film, Fox Searchlight is the distributor, and the film opened last night in New York, LA, and Washington DC.  The film was shown in NYC last week, but I don’t see it on Tribeca’s list.

The film operates in several areas.   At first glance, it’s about a journalist Peter (Christopher Denham) and his girl friend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) going undercover to make a documentary about a supposed cult. At another level, it explores the potential controversies and risks of working as a substitute teacher, a topic with which I have considerable personal experience (my “BillBoushka” blog, July 27, 2007).

The “procedures” that the cult members undergo are harrowing. As the film opens, we see a hirsute Peter (and Lorna) “prepping” for the initiation meeting by scrubbing their bodies (rather like in “Gattica”), then being cuffed and blindfolded.  Later, Peter learns a Rosicrucian handshake with the cult guard Klaus (Richard Wharton, who reminds me of guide “Wizard” at Twin Oaks, Issues Blog, April 7).   They find leader Maggie (Brit Marling) seductive and manipulative, as she claims to have come from the future, year 2054.  (Is she one of “The 4400”?  Or is it that “there’s going to be another blackout?”)  The sessions get quite harrowing.  For example, after Peter has swallowed a hidden microphone, Maggie gives the cultists an emetic apple, and there follows a scene of group emesis, except, at first, for Peter, who says he simply never vomits.  Well, that may not work here.  We’re not completely clear as to how he gets out of it.

His other challenge comes about from his work as a “long term sub”.  He takes over what looks like a fifth grade class from another teacher having a baby, and seems to bond pretty well with kids.  But then somehow Maggie finds out the identity of one of the kids (he doesn’t know how; he says he didn’t put anything about the class on social media), and he wants her to “kidnap” her so she can meet her.
I found it hard to believe that Peter would take any risks in this area – he could go to jail himself, of course, over endangering a minor – but he seems determined to finish his passion as an amateur journalist. I could hardly have gone there as a sub; I got into enough trouble over my online postings. 
There then comes the surprise endings, with the whole question about the “Time Arrow of Physics”.  I’m not sure I buy it.

The audience applauded this film and fielded a lot of questions for the QA. 

Can one function as an "independent" journalist (especially on the open Web) and a public school teacher at the same time? When I started subbing, I actually thought I was onto something -- but it fell apart on me.  I think it's hard.  A teacher has to "take sides" for his kids and his profession. 

I’ll throw out as an aside, I do think some of the incidents involving minors that Chris Hansen uncovered on NBC Datelines would make for the subject of a good independent  documentary film of investigative journalism, particularly the disturbing case of Rabbi David Kaye, as well as meteorologist Bill Kamal.

Fox has an official site with a video of the “handshake”, link here.    The director says it took a whole day to learn the handshakes.

Pictures: Sorry, the director looks like a "ghost", camera didn't pick him up well.  Nearby, the C&O Canal in Georgetown, one block from (and behind) the theater complex.  

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