It is probably the world’s best-kept secret about the goings on of ‘Scientology’ behind closed doors. Nobody on the outside is allowed in, and their method of ensuring that remains are some of the most obscure and strange practices in the modern era. Even one of the best documentarians in the world – Louis Theroux was given a cold ‘no’ for access. So what now? Well we find out in his first feature length film; My Scientology Movie.
Louis is best known for assimilating into groups and places that draw the ire of the general public and trying to humanize them. Whether it’s a maximum security prison, a white supremacist group or the Westboro Baptist Church, his interview style is famous and his temperament behind enemy lines is engaging and thrilling. Unfortunately due to the unusual nature of Scientology, Louis is stuck skirting the edges of the organisation (or church to some) and must employ a different tactic to visually portray his endeavor to the audience.
He enlists the help of the most famous defectors from Scientology, notably Marty Rathbone, former #2 and 30-year veteran; to hire actors and re-create scenes and moments to give us a sense of their inner-workings, training methods and even punishments. We are given insight into ‘the hole’, an empty office room where executives were sent to be exiled without a choice for many days under lock and key; or into David Miscavige himself, the leader/tyrant of Scientology, known for his short fuse and tendency to lash out with violence.
The subject matter is not to be laughed at, but the tone of this film definitely is. Louis presents the movie with a light-hearted, almost farcical approach, mocking the laughable elements of the church (or cult to some) and giving the audience an idea of how and why they act the way they do, under the supreme impression they are doing good for the world, and all are welcome if you can afford the price of admission.
It is funnier than any movie out right now, the edit is punchy and adds to the comedy, and the exchanges Louis has with Marty and some Scientologists themselves who harass them along the way are hilarious and cringy. You really get a sense of the level of brainwashing involved, and the lengths at which they will go to in order for their secrets to remain within their esoteric circles.
What the movie lacks however, is a clear reason for its existence, it doesn’t expose anything you couldn’t have found out from Going Clear, the HBO documentary from last year. There isn’t any special access or moment in the film that stamps its mark on revealing something about Scientology, or most disappointingly, that Louis himself is not granted that special all-access areas behind-the-scenes look he is most known and admired for to really unravel the group from the inside.
That being said for those who know nothing about Scientologists, you’ll get a broader explanation and the gist of it, and if anything it’ll inform as well as entertain into the dangerous nature of Scientology, where there’ll be an all encompassing affect on you; mentally, spiritually, physically and definitely financially.