Louis Theroux’s new Scientology film certainly made for an entertaining watch. We see Louis thrown to the floor by an actor playing the Church’s leader, David Miscavige, in re-enactments of what allegedly goes on behind the very much closed, locked and bolted doors of Scientology. We watch how the Church squirms under the microscope that Theroux attempts to place over it, as members hurl
abuse at Louis, follow him in blacked out vehicles and shove cameras in his face, claiming to be making their own documentary.
Yet, the film lacks the thoroughness and depth of previous Scientology documentaries such as Going Clear. I understand that making a film about such an impenetrable and secretive organisation has its difficulties and it would be unfair to expect Louis to be able to get anywhere near the Church’s leader or high up members for an interview. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the documentary was simply telling us what we already knew: that the Church is a corrupt, violent, money making scheme. A more interesting approach would have been to look into the psychology of why these people join such an obviously dishonest and dangerous cult. As Louis only briefly mentions, there’s something to be said about the vision this Church offers: dreams of a better world. When interviewing former members, Louis tends to skip straight into their reasons for leaving, but never asks their reason for joining.
Having said that, the documentary does contain some brilliant re-enactments. Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun, ex-Scientologist, directs a scene where Miscavige grabs members by the throat, throws them to the floor and even makes Louis crawl on all fours. These scenes are probably the closest we will ever get to seeing what happens within the Church and so gives us a brilliant insight. I only wish Louis had tried a little harder to resist the sensationalist tendency this documentary leans towards, and had instead shown us the dream that Scientology offers to so many growing members.