It’s likely that your first introduction to Brit Marling came from our weekly Watch It feature. Her film “Sound of My Voice” had three of our writers buzzing about the talented rising actress, writer and producer.
In the movie, Marling plays Maggie, a present-day cult leader claiming to have time traveled from the future. Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius), a documentary filmmaking couple, infiltrate her group intent on exposing the mysterious leader and freeing her followers—who believe they were chosen to escape a future disaster as long as they obey Maggie’s commands.
Marling co-wrote “Sound” with director Zal Batmanglij, a friend she’s been working with since college when she was an Econ-major-turned-filmmaker. The film hits select theaters today and we caught up with Marling to talk about the challenges she faced playing Maggie, her interest in time travel and “The East,” her next film with Batmanglij also starring Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page.
MTV: The underlying theme of this movie is community. What specifically interests you about the idea of community and being part of something?
Brit Marling: I think that we all feel that right now. It’s funny that it’s sort of a given that a lot of people will leave the town they grew up in and travel to some city in search of a particular career or dream or ambition that they feel is their destiny. I think that can be a really alienating experience. So, I think it’s this idea of being able to get outside your loneliness and be part of a tribe by choice. It seemed like just a fascinating world to us.
MTV: How did the idea form to have a cult leader who claims to be a time traveler? Why time traveling?
Marling: I think time travel is so cool because it’s a good way to talk about the unseen or the unknowable in an entertaining and thrilling way. And those were always the kind of books that I was attracted to as a kid, books where strange and magical things were possible. And maybe time travel is possible [laughs]. Our perception of things is so limited, the way we think of time is so linear, but maybe it doesn’t work that way at all. I think we like daydreaming of the possibility of a time traveler being amongst us and thinking of it in a really practical, earthy way. What would that person dress like? Would they have time travel jet lag? If you fly from New York to L.A. your immune system gets really depressed and all these things are going on inside your body. Well, what if you traveled back decades in time? What would that do to your hair and your white blood cell count?
MTV: Maggie mentions not everybody has access to technology in the future. The claim seems strange since our world is overrun with technology. What was the idea behind that?
Marling: The idea that all this technology, while it has made us in some ways connected, it’s incredibly fragile—connectivity can also be our weak point. If you shut down the internet for a week, what would happen? What would happen if you shut the internet down for a day? It’s a little scary. Maggie’s talking about a version of the future in which the internet has been shut down for a year and we’re back to tribal living. People are growing food in their garages and need to learn how to use shot guns. It’s a different time.
MTV: Did you find that there were some challenges in playing a character like Maggie?
Marling: Yeah. Oh my gosh, it was so terrifying as a character. I was so intimidated and nervous. For a while I got stuck wondering why these people are drawn to her, but rather than thinking about her effect on people, I started to think of why she needs people. Then I sort of got at the center of her, which is whether she is or isn’t from the future. [Either way] she’s human. Time traveler isn’t an angel, time traveler is just a human being with vulnerabilities and flaws and weaknesses, and those are very present in Maggie. She’s a very flawed person who seems to have a very extraordinary perspective. And once I came at it from that angle I could feel being inside her skin.
MTV: What did you want the audience to leave the theater feeling or thinking?
Marling: I think that any given day of the week you wake up and sometimes the sun is coming through the clouds in a certain way and there’s a breeze in the air. Maybe you just read something great or slept with someone great [laughs], and everything in the world is magical and extraordinary and filled with possibility. And some days you’re stuck in traffic and trying to return 500 emails in an hour and you’re like, “OK, this is such bulls—.” I think the movie hopes to be thrilling and unsettling and provacative, but ultimately going to place of kind of wonderment. Wonderment and opening for Peter, which is both emotional and then also metaphysical.
MTV: You’re in post-production for “The East.” Can you tell us more about the film and your role?
Marling: It was an amazing experience. An incredible group of people came around that story and I think the story was a real test for the kind of person that would want to do it. Not everybody wants to make a movie about anarchy [laughs] and so it was self-selecting. The actors who were drawn to it were the right people for the story and we had an incredible time making it. It’s the story of a girl who’s a conservative corporate spy who goes undercover to infiltrate this group of anarchists. We had so much fun making it. We’re still in the middle of editing so who knows what kind of film is going to immerge [laughs].
Will you head to theaters to see “Sound of My Voice” this weekend? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter!