Louis Theroux tries to get a better understanding of the Church of Scientology. Despite getting the door closed in his face, My Scientology Movie still proves to be an interesting documentary.
Louis Theroux presents an interesting and thought provoking look into the (in)famous group known as scientologists. Despite their secretiveness and Theroux’s inability to gain information from any current members, he unveils important information on some of their beliefs, practices and the rumours and controversies surrounding the group that is often labelled a “cult”.
As per usual he uses his quiet and unassuming demeanour to attempt to disarm those he is questioning, and learns from several former members some shocking truths about the abuse that some followers of the “church” have received. Of course, during his search for answers Theroux is continually harassed, filmed and threatened by not only several scientologists, but also their lawyers (who of course deny that anything stated in this documentary is true). It feels often as though they are one step ahead of Theroux at every turn, and it is debatable whether by the end of the film any truly new or remarkable information has come to light. However it is commendable to see him carry on relentlessly pursuing them in his trademark, mild mannered fashion. And also shocking to see the way both he and the individuals helping him are treated by members of the Church of Scientology.
Throughout the film he is assisted by a former Scientologist who had previously had high standing within the group. It’s extremely interesting to see what he has to say regarding the religion and in particular its leader, David Miscavige. His version of events are played out via several reenactments with actors chosen by him and Theroux. The mixture of acting, Theroux’s investigations and clips of television footage (including ones featuring Tom Cruise) is useful in beginning to understand Scientology from the perspective of people who are or were involved with the group. Even if you have no previous knowledge of Scientology this documentary provides a good background, with Theroux explaining the basic beliefs of Scientologists, and showing footage of their galas, providing a good idea of how glitzy and unusual the group is, especially for a “religion”.
Whilst it’s a good thing that Theroux interviews former Scientologists it does mean that the majority of the opinions presented are of the negative variety. The lack of opinion from current scientologists makes for a slightly biased documentary. However the way that they are treated by the Church of Scientology throughout this film shows that the information being presented is most likely accurate. Theroux is mostly sympathetic towards the former members that he interviews, however he also occasionally turns the spotlight on them and attempts to make them realise their accountability for the things that happened whilst they were a high ranking member of the “Church”. Some of these scenes are really quite tense, and whilst it’s great that he questions everyone in the same meticulous fashion he only really evokes anger in some of his interviewees and doesn’t really get anywhere with regards to this.
My Scientology Movie is an interesting, shocking and informative documentary film. Theroux utilises his trademark charm to get some decent results. However this film is far from groundbreaking, and it seems that despite his best efforts Theroux doesn’t reveal any more than any previous Scientology documentary has.
Written by Lauren Miles
Top 10 Films reviewed My Scientology Movie on DVD courtesy of Altitude Film Distrbution which released the film on November 28, 2016 in the UK.