Ah, Scientology. To most of us, the public face of the Illuminati. To others, the one true religion. But to Louis Theroux, its a fascinating enigma that requires greater investigation.
Behold, My Scientology Movie. Premiered in 2015, but recently received a limited release in the UK, this documentary deep-dive into the Church of Scientology is directed by John Dower and written by Dower and Theroux. Joining up with former Scientologist Mark Rathburn, Louis Theroux investigates both the public persona of the church, but also the potentially sinister dealings out of the public eye.
As expected for a film on Scientology, this doco can be quite dark and serious, but there’s also an extremely playful and even humorous edge to how the subject matter has been approached. Louis Theroux is the central figure, and the way he and director Dower approaches making the film is both refreshing and necessary. Its a documentary that can make you laugh one moment, and feel horribly unpleasant moments after.
How the documentary was made was heavily informed by both the show-business nature of Scientology itself, as well as its secretive policies. Instead of going for the usual archived footage inter-cut with serious interviews, Theroux and Dower took a far more hands on approach – enacting intense recreations of what may be going on behind close doors – in order to provoke a reaction out of the church itself. And it really did. The equivalent of kicking an ant-hill and suddenly half the documentary is based on mysterious tailing cars and strange camera crews shooting on their doorstep. This gives the doco quite a refreshing feel in comparison to usual approaches, and further contributes to an equally entertaining and edgy film-making endeavour.
While it struggles as an intense scrutiny into Scientology itself, and does lose focus at times, this attention to Scientology’s overt responses to Theroux’s investigation is indicative of what this entire documentary – and honestly most other media surrounding Scientology – suggests about the church. Its an enigmatic dive down the rabbit hole into what is vividly painted as some sort of cult. And its a trip worth experiencing.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended