Who isn’t interested in the inner workings of a cult? Everyday people giving up their autonomy in order to follow a charming or at least convincing individual is fascinating. This week I had the pleasure to watch two films about cults. The Master, a big budget period film from acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson, and The Sound of My Voice, a micro-budget first feature from new director Zal Batmanglij. Let me say upfront, I was already biased for one major reason: Brit Marling. Another Earth, which Marling starred in and co-wrote, was my faviroute for last year. Marling again co-wrote The Sound of My Voice, and plays the time-travelling cult leader. In this role she mixes fragility, threat, desirability and creepiness incredibly. Can’t wait to see what she does next.
Both of these films are from the point of view of new recruits to the cults. The Master follows Freddie an alcoholic veteran and The Sound of My Voice follows two cynical documentary filmmakers. The funny thing is that Freddie, who is very lost in the world, isn’t really convinced by the cult, where the mid twenties cynics are. I would have loved My Voice to have looked into this part of the characters a little more, instead of relying on tacked on voice over exposition to randomly tell the two lead’s back stories. Very jarring and unnecessery. I wish this film had been given a little bit more time to breath, at only 85 minutes it felt very very short. The end also under minded the rest of the film. One of my teachers once read a story of mine and told me ‘Theres a big difference between ambiguous and vague.’ Ouch! But he was so right, and this film just feels like they couldn’t make up there minds about what they wanted the film to really be about.
Now, my feelings on The Master have caused a bit of a stir with my PTA (as they call him) loving friends. I really just didn’t buy the acting! Phoenix’s performance is all anyone seems to be talking about, but to me it just felt so over-considered. And the fact that everyone is talking about the performance of the actor rather than the character as a real person seems to really say something. I think I really enjoy acting when I can’t see the machinics of it, if I feel like I can see what they’re doing than I just focus on analysing that rather than believing the character.