My Scientology Movie – Film Review
Director: John Dower
Writers: John Dower (screenwriter), Louis Theroux
Stars: Rob Alter, Tom Cruise, Paz de la Huerta
Available on We Are Colony
This film has been the subject of much debate in Ireland, with various stories that it would not get a cinema release due to blasphemy laws. Whether this is the case or not, the film is easily found on various streaming services which renders the debate somewhat facile. Can a film really be banned in 2016?
At the start of the film, Theroux states that he wanted to talk directly to the Church, but after their refusal to cooperate with him, he started to look at other avenues. Theroux then started talking to a number of ex-followers. These individuals are described as ’embittered’ by the Church, who say they are telling lies about its practices. The documentary focuses on interviews and meetings with Mark Rathbun, who described himself as being the ‘Mr. Fix-it’ for the Church until he left in 2004. There are a number of other ex-members who make appearances to somewhat corroborate Rathbun’s version of events.
The film goes into some detail on the techniques that are used in the Church. Auditing is one such technique and involves a crude form of lie detector that allows the reader to see if the interviewee is experiencing stress. There is also a brief discussions on Tone 40, which is a style of speech with absolute self confidence and intensity. Each of these is fascinating, but is only touched on here. They also discuss the beliefs of Scientologists, thetans and other elements are mentioned without giving any real insight.
One segment of the film deals with their attempts to recreate some of Rathbun’s experiences inside the Church. To do this, Theroux sets about casting people to play David Miscavige (current leader of the church) and Tom Cruise. This pieces is quite bizarre and amusing but is largely a diversion from the main topic.
One of the more interesting turns of events is when a film crew starts filming Theroux and his cohorts. There are some great scenes where one film crew faces off with another film crew. There is talk that the Scientologists have started to make a documentary about Theroux! There are also scenes where a white truck appears to be following their car, although nothing is clear and it could all be just paranoia.
The documentary has many positive elements but for those wanting a deep understanding of Scientology it is not contained here. Whether this is because of fear of legal action, it is hard to know as Theroux receives many letters from the Scientologist’s legal team during the filming. There is possibly a better film left on the cutting room floor!
As with most of Theroux’s work, he focuses on the individual rather than an overall view of the topic. What Theroux does provide is an insight into the men he interviews, these ‘embittered’ ex-Scientologists. Mark Rathbun comes off as a shady character, somewhat untrustworthy and possibly hiding a darker side which makes him all the more fascinating. The various confrontations with the camera wielding Church members are some of the true highlights. We wait with bated breath for the return documentary on Theroux himself!