FILM: SOUND OF MY VOICE
The future is an unsettling thought for some and an exciting one for others, but what if you meet someone who claims to be from the future and who seems to have all the answers? Releasing on Friday July 6 at Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau Cavendish Square in Cape Town, ‘The Sound of My Voice’ is a psychological thriller from the director of ‘Another Earth’, and is Zal Batmanglij’s debut feature, a story of a journalist that teams up with his girlfriend to investigate a cult leader who claims to be from 2054.
In the film, Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius), a couple and documentary filmmaking team, infiltrate a mysterious group led by an enigmatic young woman named Maggie (Brit Marling). Intent on exposing her as a charlatan and freeing the followers from her grip, Peter and Lorna start to question their objective and each other as they unravel the secrets of Maggie’s underworld.
As Maggie breaks down the defences of the group members with a cunning combination of cruelty, empathy and personal magnetism, the line between investigation and indoctrination begins to blur, and Peter and Lorna starts to wonder if there could possibly be any truth to her story. When the initially sceptical Peter’s devotion to Maggie begins to grow, he is asked to perform an impossible and illegal task for her, and Lorna desperately looks for help in saving him from Maggie’s machinations.
‘Sound Of My Voice’ writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/star Brit Marling met while attending Georgetown University, where their mutual love for cinema was nurtured. “We watched the same films, read the same film criticism and had a lot of the same film professors,” says Marling. “We discovered we were both interested in films that are lyrical, beautiful, substantive, complicated and dark. But we were equally interested in the elements that are more typical in blockbuster movies – suspense, action, sci fi and genre elements usually told on a large canvas. The question became, why can’t we have a little bit of both? Even if a movie is complex and has subversive ideas, can’t it still be entertaining?”
In part, ‘Sound Of My Voice’ is an exploration of that idea, says Batmanglij, whose goal was to create something that works equally well as a “popcorn movie” and a provocative and serious film. “I’ve never understood why you can’t have an art house thriller,” he says. “Why can’t you have a Hollywood movie that’s also thought provoking or a small indie movie that’s a high concept idea? Our film entertains even as it asks the audience to do a lot of the legwork.”
“We’re trying to make the movies we want to see,” he continues. To Marling, the film is in some ways an old fashioned mystery thriller. “You’re presented with a puzzle and you slowly try to get to the center of it,” she says.
As writers, the pair cites influences ranging from ‘The Terminator’ to Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “cinema of moral anxiety” and Paddy Chayefsky’s blistering social satire ‘Network’. “‘Sound Of My Voice’ isn’t overtly political, but it is exploring the sense of alienation that so many people feel today,” says Batmanglij.
The script, which was written about three years ago, mines the zeitgeist and anticipates some of the predominant concerns in America today. Maggie, the leader of the clandestine group, has what Marling calls “a prescription for living.” “Something about that is very appealing,” she explains. “Life is uncertain, and we’re all confused as to what we’re doing here. There’s a systemic failure in the economy and in much of the way in which our world is structured. Maggie claims to have answers that will give your life instant purpose and meaning. Of course you want to go down the basement stairs and find out what they are.”
CAST: CHRISTOPHER DENHAM, NICOLE VICIUS, BRIT MARLING
DIRECTOR: ZAL BATMANGLIJ
FILM: ROCK OF AGES
Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip, 1987. Rockers wail and heads bang inside the packed and pulsating walls of a rock ‘n’ roll institution, The Bourbon Room. Heart strings are plucked and electric guitar sparks fly to the beat of some of the greatest hits of the `80s…the “Rock of Ages.”
The Broadway hit now goes from stage to screen under the direction of Adam Shankman. Shankman, who grew up in Los Angeles, felt right at home in the setting. “My dad was a music business manager, and his office was on the Strip,” he says. “I knew a lot of artists. I was choreographing music videos in 1987 and it was a world that I really understood and loved, so turning back that clock was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
At the core of the film is a boy-meets-girl love story woven into classic, only-in-Hollywood dreams of fame. Shankman’s sister and producing partner, Jennifer Gibgot, elaborates, “Like so many people in L.A., the young lovers in ‘Rock of Ages’ have come here hoping to make it big and thinking it’s going to be easy. But it turns out to be a lot harder to stay on the path, to keep believing in the thing that led them there in the first place.”
The movie also shows the other side of the coin: what it was like to have achieved the fame and fortune that `80s glam bands so thoroughly and unabashedly enjoyed.
Fellow native Angelino and producer Garrett Grant, who grew up listening to that music and idolizing the artists, emphasizes, “It was important to portray the period authentically, and hit the tone as much as we could in order to truly pay homage to the rock stars—rock gods, really—of that generation.”
Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta portray the young couple with stars in their eyes at the center of the story. They are joined by an all-star cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman and Catherine Zeta-Jones. And playing the rock god of “Rock of Ages,” Arsenal lead singer Stacee Jaxx, is Tom Cruise.
For Shankman, the journey began when he went to see “Rock of Ages” on the stage. He recalls, “The audience was having the best time I’d ever seen at a show. Everybody knew the lyrics to all the songs and was out of their seats and singing along and having the time of their life. That enthusiasm, that sheer emotion, convinced me to make the movie.”
It wasn’t his only reason for revisiting the era, however. “I thought it would be an interesting challenge to make a movie musical that guys would drag their girlfriends to for a change.”
CAST: JULIANNE HOUGH, DIEGO BONETA, PAUL GIAMATTI, RUSSELL BRAND, MARY J. BLIGE, MALIN AKERMAN, CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, ALEC BALDWIN, TOM CRUISE
DIRECTOR: ADAM SHANKMAN