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FANGORIA: While SOUND OF MY VOICE isn’t down the line
horror, it does give itself over to genre, and wears that on its sleeve.
ZAL BATMANGLIJ: People always walk out of SOUND OF MY VOICE
and say, “I felt so much dread.”
FANG: It’s so eerie. A lot of indie filmmakers, as I said to
Chris, aren’t embarrassed of the idea anymore (as they shouldn't be). So, I wanted to talk about
injecting that, or making something low key like this.
BATMANGLIJ: No, I’m obsessed with genre. I think a lot of
great filmmakers are into genre. My editor on THE EAST loves POLTERGEIST,
thinks it’s one of the best movies ever made. I think genre is the only thing
that really interests me. I think thrillers are fascinating, and sci-fi is
fascinating. What I’m interested in, is the flipside of horror. What is the
opposite of a horror movie? I’m very interested in that. That is what I want to
FANG: In the sense of spectacle?
BATMANGLIJ: If a horror movie is on one side of a spectrum,
what’s on the other side of that spectrum? I don’t think anyone’s really made
that movie yet. I don’t know, maybe I’m not being very clear. Maybe it has to
do with a spiritual thriller. I don’t know. I mean, I guess a spiritual
thriller would be on the opposite side. If evil is discussed in horror than the
other side would be the opposite of evil. Is it a love story that’s the
opposite of horror? No, because love stories are horror stories on their own.
FANG: There’s all kinds of savage love. Do you mean, if
horror finds the evil within us, or speaks to that, you’re looking for the
light? Your characters are looking for light in Maggie.
BATMANGLIJ: SOUND OF MY VOICE definitely has elements of it,
but I want to take it on like…
FANG: You want to make something incredibly transcendent, it
sounds; something that just transports people.
BATMANGLIJ: I would like to do that. I would like to spend
my life trying to do that. I’m not saying that I would ever achieve that, but I
started when I’m thirty, so by the time I get to be sixty, could I make that
movie? I started with this, this is like a sketch for that.
FANG: I love that idea, not that every filmmaker doesn’t
want a long career, but some feel like they’re on a mission. A passion in
someone like Alain Resnais (LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD), or any of the French
filmmakers that are so elderly, yet still searching and working.
BATMANGLIJ: We have a lot of American ones that do that too.
Look at Ridley.
FANG: Ridley’s British.
BATMANGLIJ: I know, but in terms of, America will take
FANG: We’ve co-opted Alfred Hitchcock.
BATMANGLIJ: As Americans, I don’t even think that Hitchcock
FANG: Well, they’re still there, but that sounds noble in a
BATMANGLIJ: Well, I’m a late bloomer too. I was like that
growing up, so expect that in real life, too. But who knows, you never know.
FANG: Were you a late bloomer in making film, or film
production? Do you feel like you didn’t get into it until later on?
BATMANGLIJ: I wrangled a video camera when I was 12, so I
was doing it on some level, but film is such a collective sport. It’s not like
being a novelist. It’s more akin to playing soccer than it is to swimming. You
can just start swimming, but you can’t start filmmaking.
FANG: Do you think your search for something transcendent
translates to the characters in SOUND OF MY VOICE searching for something in Maggie;
that Maggie’s going to take them someplace? What do you think about that being
a larger statement in the sense of the cult stories being told right now?
BATMANGLIJ: You mean like MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE?
FANG: Exactly, the films come from different places, but
there’s still an undoubted fascination at the moment with people being lost and
trying to find something. Christopher Denham and I spoke about maybe that comes
from a collected dread of the future, maybe it’s politics related?
BATMANGLIJ: I think we’re hungry to find family. We’re so
alienated these days. We’re far away from our own families, but far away from
our friends, and also work. I feel like, in the old days, people really did
congregate around the water cooler. People are working in front of their
computers, or on their Blackberrys, people aren’t coming in to work as much as
they used to. I think we’re hungry. I thought MARTHA MARCY was a little bit
more cynical about groups than we are. I don’t think we give an opinion, one
way or the other. I’m kind of fascinated by them. I think group think is
FANG: Is that a possible step on the path to finding light?
BATMANGLIJ: Oh, I don’t know, but maybe to finding some sort
of meaning. If I found someone I could give up sense of self to, gosh, I would
do it. I just don’t know if I can find that person.
FANG: Do you meditate?
BATMANGLIJ: I used to. My dad taught me how to meditate when
I was a tween, and I did it for a while and I did it while we were writing
SOUND OF MY VOICE, but lately I haven’t. I just don’t even want to think too
much, let alone not think. I’m just working so hard on THE EAST these days, in
the edit room. There’s too much anxiety, I don’t even want to clear the
FANG: One of the scariest things about SOUND OF MY VOICE is
it’s really infused with the weirdness of L.A. Did you grow up there?
BATMANGLIJ: No, in D.C., but I’ve lived there now for seven
FANG: Did you put any of your own odd experiences. L.A.
seems to be a lot of people working together to try and find something.
BATMANGLIJ: It’s manifest destiny. A lot of prom kings and
queens come out there on their way into the Ocean. It’s the last stop, all
these lemmings and cars headed for the ocean. It’s also the desert and don’t
underestimate the desert. A friend of mine once told me the desert winds come
at night and clear out the desert, and so energetically, it’s constantly
clearing itself, Los Angeles. So, there’s no sense of memory there, like there
is on the East Coast. And it’s true, if you spend a lot of time in L.A., it all
sort of blends together. There are no seasons, there are TV billboards. I
remember when we first moved to L.A., there were brand new shows, like LOST and
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Those were the two new shows, and now DON’T TRUST THE B
in APT 23.
FANG: You live close to ABC?
BATMANGLIJ: [Laughs] Oh yea, these are all ABC shows. I
guess they buy some billboards. I think the first Tyler Perry movie was being
marketed when we first moved to L.A. and now he’s an empire.
FANG: He’s his own cult leader? I was just reading a piece
about how his whole aesthetic and views are actually truly weird and warped and
flying under a lot of the entertainment of it.
BATMANGLIJ: I think his movies are kind of amazing. I
watched one movie in which a girl tells her mom, “You dressed me up and sent me
into my stepfather’s bedroom! You put perfume on me.” And she’s like, “That’s
how I kept this family together!” And then literally, Tyler Perry dressed as a
woman comes with a frying pan into the next scene. I thought, “this is actually
kind of an art film.”
FANG: That’s exactly the gist of what I was reading.
BATMANGLIJ: But I’m not kidding, it’s not ironic. I really
think he’s on to something.
FANG: He’s possibly incredibly Lynchian.
BATMANGLIJ: I think so. Lynch is going off and making INLAND
EMPIRE, but Tyler Perry is picking up right from where Lynch left off with
MULHOLLAND DR. But I think you’re right that L.A. is a character a lot like
L.A. is a character in MULHOLLAND DR. It’s so palpable in MULHOLLAND DR. I’d
love to know what Lynch thinks of this film. Or David Lynch on Tyler Perry,
Tyler Perry on David Lynch.
FANG: A new HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT, if you will.
BATMANGLIJ: You need to publish that.
FANG: Yes, with me in the middle! Something that really
compels me about the writing of the film, and not that I’m so much interested
in what your version of the “truth” is, but that you have your own view and
know the “truth” and then writing and justifying the other view, or skepticism
within the film. Basically, making all views fit just as tidy.
BATMANGLIJ: It’s so true, if we do know the truth, how do
you—it’s because I really believe that the movie is an essay and I actually
believe in both in many regards, even though I know the answer. Life is like
that. There is so much magic in just real life, in the mundane-ness of real
life. It’s also just so much fun. In the scene with Lam, she says, “Hello, Lam
wasn’t with us.” It’s so funny because his response to that is, “Are we with
you?” and she says, “That’s for you to decide.” She talks in those weird,
paradoxical things that I think people who have that weird magnetism and run
cults, do talk like that. I was watching the movie two days ago thinking, “What
is she saying?”
FANG: It brings it back to the politician parallel.
BATMANGLIJ: Someone asked me if this was a metaphor for the
crumbling of our belief in government, and politicians and leaders. I think of
it as post-leadership, it’s got such this L.A. pioneer feel to it. They don’t
even believe in anything. The whole world exists in that basement for them.
FANGORIA: When I spoke to Chris, we brought up the idea of
how some independent filmmakers are currently making this very quiet type of
genre film, but one that doesn’t seek to leave the genre behind. Do you feel
like you might be in this crowd who no longer see genre as something
BRIT MARLING: You know what’s so funny, I didn’t even
realize, but the way you’re articulating it, I guess genre was a dirty word.
FANG: It seems like it used to be, but now people in the indie drama kind of wheelhouse are playing and injecting and
admitting being weaned on it.
MARLING: I didn’t even know that it was a pejorative thing.
I always felt genre was cool.
FANG: Exactly, of course.
MARLING: Those were
always the movies I loved, like TERMINATOR, or the Chris Marker film LA JETEE,
that later inspired TWELVE MONKEYS. Those are the movies that I liked growing
FANG: Especially something like LA JETEE, it's total genre.
MARLING: Total genre. It’s poetic and masterful and
stunning. I’m worried about the films that aren’t genre, or don’t have genre
elements. What are those movies [laughs]? What’s interesting about film, to me,
is as an art form, it’s one of the few art forms where commerce is braided into
it, and that’s awesome because you’re making work for an audience, and the
expectation is that, on some level, you’re trying to appeal to as many people
as you can. So that’s an interesting braid, because you’re not making work in a
vacuum and it’s not like the way a sculptor may talk about something, “Oh, well
I’m just making this for me, and if some people happen to connect, or not
connect, then it doesn’t really matter.”
At least with the way Zal, and Mike [Cahill, director of ANOTHER EARTH, also co-written by and starring Marling] and I have always been
interested in films, we want to construct a film that’s like a cruise ship that
can dock anywhere because it’s entertaining, and then you put all this
subversive cargo on board and try to smuggle it in. I think SOUND OF MY VOICE
FANG: Absolutely, two things that immediately come to mind
in a major way is the idea the film is about reacting to turbulent, or strained
childhoods. Peter is very much reacting to his mother, and he throws himself
into Maggie knowing full well, in some capacity, what can happen.
MARLING: Nobody ever talks about that part of it. Nobody
ever talks about the abuse, and it’s a fascinating part of it.
FANG: Well, the little bit of history we get of Lorna is the
idea she abused herself, in a way. And now Maggie’s like another high.
MARLING: There are all kinds of questions of molestation,
and molestation of the mind, and also where we are in the world right now. I
feel like, we didn’t really know who Maggie was until that scene between her
and Peter came and the idea that Maggie has this ability to get at the
center of what makes someone tick in like, thirty seconds. Usually, it would
take a psychotherapist three years of couch talk to get someone to open
up enough, and to see what’s in there to get it out. Maggie has this ability of
doing it pretty instantly. Peter, like you’re saying is so guarded and so
protected and has functioned that way his entire life, and yet there’s this
like delicious appeal of someone being able to see your brokest, weakest,
messiest point, and to actually love you because of it, not in spite of it.
FANG: Well, that extends to the idea of looking for a new
family and the danger of being completely betrayed by them. Also, the film is
totally L.A.-centric, and just how weird the place can be.
FANG: It’s very much a part of this idea of being displaced
there, and being far from everything you know or once were. I asked Zal, are
you from L.A.?
MARLING: No, I journeyed there too, both Zal and I came out
from the east coast and I think you do feel when you get there, it’s strange.
It’s like the edge of the frontier. There’s all this desire and disappointment,
dreams and then nightmares. The valley is this weird landscape, that sometimes
at twilight, there are coyotes running about, and hummingbirds. It’s haunting
and ethereal in a way that is otherworldly. And then, in the harsh light of
noon, when traffic is going, and smog is thick in the air, and endless strip
malls. You’re like, “this is the most ordinary, mundane place.” It’s both, and
SOUND OF MY VOICE is both.
FANG: Both, that’s a word Zal mentioned when I asked about
the idea of knowing the “truth” of the film and still writing and justifying
another perspective. It’s compelling; it seems so hard to do, to see both sides
MARLING: It’s so interesting that you say that, because the
reason we’re able to do that in this movie is because we genuinely feel that we
don’t know, and that every day you can go back and forth. Sometimes, I wake up
and I look out and there’s like a breeze coming in the window, and some music,
and you’re like, “Oh wow, being alive is the most magical, strange—there were
once pterodactyls—what is this experience?” and then other days, you’re sitting
in a taxi and traffic and you have 200 emails to return. So, I think that we go
back and forth. I think we do that in THE EAST too, and THE EAST is dealing
with anarchy and the possibility of a rebellion and I think that the film is
incredibly neutral. It’s neither for, nor against. As a filmmaker, or at least
the kind of films I like, I don’t want to be spoon fed. I want to be presented
the world, and enter as I will, you know? I hope that we were able to do that.
FANG: I think so. There are so many ways you can find
meaning within SOUND OF MY VOICE. There’s abuse, and family, and politics, and
even this idea of why are we fascinated with cults?
MARLING: I think that there’s also, amongst the millennial
generation, a desire for a collective experience.
FANG: Being behind computers has alienated us?
MARLING: We’re so alienated and Twitter is our solve for
that. That’s how we hang out with people. I’m alone in a hotel room during a
press junket, so I get on Twitter and feel less alone? There’s something to be
said for it, but there’s also something missing, which is the idea that how can
people come together and have a meaningful, shared experience, and in some
respects a cult seems very appealing.
And in some respects, independent
filmmaking is its own kind of cult. Chris pointed this out the other day in a
Q&A. Independent filmmaking is like a tribe of people that come together
for a period of time, and there’s a leader, a director, but the real higher
power that everyone surrenders to is the story, and you’re all servants to
that. You’re told what time to wake up and what time to go to bed, and when
you’re going to have lunch and what lines you’re going to say. You know what I
think is so intoxicating about that experience, why I’m attracted to it as an
actor? You’re finally removed from the alienation of being who you are; from
the sadness of being locked in your own point of view of the world. You get to
step outside of yourself for a while and live in group think. There’s something
freeing about it.
SOUND OF MY VOICE is out now
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