I find Scientology and cults in general a fascinating subject and have watched most documentaries on the subject including the most recent one by Alex Gibney, Going Clear. Both this and Going Clear are excellent exposes but in different ways. As one reviewer said Going Clear is more factual whilst this one gives you a better feeling of Scientology is all about - a good description in my opinion.
I've often got the feeling that Scientology is somewhere between a cult and a religion but this film, more than any other, puts it squarely in the cult category.
Right from the outset you get a feel for this. Requests for interviews by Theroux are turned down by the church an almost unheard of response for an organisation that large. Most will have P.R departments ready to go to any and all media interests.
This makes it hard for Theroux of course. His usual film making style is subtle and he spends considerable time those involved, something impossible with this subject.
So he decides to use actors and actresses to re-enact some of the abuse by the organisation's head, David Miscavige. This is powerful stuff which is different to simply hearing reports of the same abuse.
But I found the real behaviour of the real Scientologists even more damning, particularly when coupled with commentary by ex-Scientologists. Near the end of the film the organisation sent a letter to Louis Theroux saying because he was making a documentary about them they intended to make a documentary about him. Such a response seemed just so totally infantile, like a young child's tit for tat: if you take mine I'll take yours kind of response. On top of the rest of the film this gave an insight into just how separated this group is from mainstream society - to even think that was an appropriate response.
All in all one comes away with the a real sense that Scientology is run by a powerful and paranoid sociopath who has somehow managed to get away with what he is doing for years. A great effort by Theroux that worked much better than his older documentary on another cult: the Westboro Baptist Church.
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