Louis Theroux is a genius. Rarely does a documentary filmmaker manage to perfectly combine facts and humour in a film, but Theroux has hit the nail on the head in his latest documentary Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie.
Theroux’s purpose from the start of the movie is very clear- he is setting out to try and learn more about scientology and the inner workings of one of the most infamous cult/religions/organisations of history. Despite being warned very early on that creating the movie would lead the “crazies” out to get him, Theroux works to uncover the secrets of Scientology. With the assistance of former senior church official Mark Rathburn, Theroux uncovers the extreme lengths that the church goes to to both control their members, and discredit those who leave the church and dare speak out against them. Inspired by The Act of Killing, Theroux also casts actors to play Scientology founder David Miscavige and Tom Cruise to display the utter moments of madness that separate scientology from other forms of churches. These re-enactments are amongst some of the best in the movie as it allows the viewer to see the insane measures that the church undertakes to “train” their members.
The movie itself is brilliant. Theroux is able to incorporate his own humour in the film without making it feel forced or unnatural. Theroux also does this to showcase the paranoia that the church is able to place on those who are threatening their reputation. Early on in the film we watch as white vans begin to follow Theroux as he goes about his daily tasks, as the scientology members begin to close in on him and threaten the production of his movie. At some point the church appears outside his studio with their own camera capturing every movement that Theroux makes. The tension is perfectly displayed, and made me wonder if just by watching the film I was going to be on the target list for Scientologists to come and attack me.
However, as brilliant as the movie was it felt slightly unfinished. As if an extra half hour of the film was missing- that half hour containing the exact reasoning behind the purpose of the film. As well as the film does to expose the madness of scientology and the extreme measures the organisation goes to protect itself, towards the end of the film it still felt as if there was a piece of the puzzle missing to the overall picture of the film. In all fairness though, the film is as the title suggests “My scientology movie”. The movie is truly Louis Theroux’s experience with scientology and representing what he has experienced within his quest to learn more about the church. The film may have no grand revelations about scientology that isn’t already on the public record but it is still a brilliantly made film, which will satisfy even the toughest audiences… unless of course that audience is one of scientologists, then it probably won’t go down so well.
Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie is showing in selected cinemas for one week only beginning the 8th of September.