By Dimitur Stefanov
Louis Theroux’s newest documentary is a witty and original film that looks into a church shrouded in controversy. My Scientology Movie features the writer – Theroux, who after failing to get close to the church’s officials comes up with an innovative solution. He decides to make a re-enactment of events that had allegedly happened in the scientologist Gold Base facility in California. Featuring former senior church official Mark Rathburn, this movie is great food for thought packed with car-tailing, unnerving behaviour by strangers and, of course, Theroux’s at times awkward questions. Their (lack of) answers will encourage you to make your own conclusions.
My Scientology Movie starts with a tweet by Louis Theroux asking for help from scientologists for his upcoming documentary. In response his followers warn him of the church’s infamous behaviour. After realising officials won’t let him in, he starts auditioning actors. The roles include David Miscavige – the church’s leader since 1987, his fellow believers, and… Tom Cruise who is described by Theroux as an unofficial “poster boy” of Scientology. The aim is to recreate incidents such as reportedly violent behaviour by Miscavige. To portray this as accurately as possible Louis Theroux teams up with ex-scientologists critical of the organization, including former Inspector General Mark Rathbun. He himself had left the church in 2004 after spending some time in The Hole – a facility where “suppressive persons” are punished. This catches the attention of the church whose attorneys contact Theroux to discredit his sources. But that’s not the half of it. Unknown people followed by the same “freelance cameraman” start getting in Louis’ way. Soon this grows into coordinated efforts to taunt and humiliate Mark Rathbun which puts the whole project at risk.
This documentary is remarkable for the different ways it will make you feel – from laughter at the numerous camera stand-offs to a creeping sense of fear from daunting encounters. Needless to say, it contains strong language and depictions of violent behaviour. However, the documentary is not anti-Scientology, rather an impartial account of a movie in the making. The film also shows some of the church’s Star Wars-esque promotional videos and its forms of therapy such as auditing. Last but not least, it is mentioned that The Church of Scientology has begun producing its own documentary on Louis Theroux – something that we may be looking forward to.
Theroux’s familiar awkward-sounding but, nevertheless, apt questions and his wit guide you through a journey bound to leave you with the desire to know more. On a few occasions Theroux aims the lens at Rathbun and his endeavours as an Inspector General. This eventually makes Mark exclaim: “You’re an asshole, that’s a fact!” Indeed, the movie’s writing and style resemble that of Theroux’s previous projects without a shortage of originality.
My Scientology Movie can be seen in Cineworld, Glasgow Film Theatre, Showcase and other cinemas in Glasgow.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);