Last night I saw Louis Theroux’s latest masterpiece: My Scientology Movie.
I call it a ‘masterpiece’, but that’s not to say it was perfect, or, in my opinion, Theroux’s best. The movie was followed by a satellite Q&A with Theroux and the movie’s director John Dower.
One thing that I should mention off the bat is that I, personally, didn’t learn anything new about Scientology from the doc. That might be because I’ve watched both the Panorama on Scientology and Going Clear (having also read the book previous to seeing the movie, which is most definitely worth reading, if you haven’t yet.) Also, give Dianetics a go, it really is wonderfully bad.
Scientology is, unsurprisingly, controversial, and thus a perfect topic for Mr Theroux. As a man who has spent time with the Westbro Baptist Church, has lived among prostitutes, has visited high security prisons, has put himself in genuinely dangerous situations for his documentaries, Scientology is something I was unsurprised to hear that Louis (can I call you Louis?) is fascinated with.
But I wanted more. I expected more. I wanted Louis to show me or tell me something about Scientology that I had either never heard or seen before. I wanted my absolute favourite documentary film maker to break the metaphorical (and physical) walls that surround Scientologists and shine some light on the mysterious religion. But what I got was re-iteration of what I already had seen, read or dug up for myself. Perhaps I am one of the well-informed. Perhaps it was bad timing – My Scientology Movie was already in production when Going Clear was released, but still, it wasn’t one of Theroux’s more informative pieces. I wish Louis had included some more run-of-the-mill Scientologists, instead of the big name defectors we all already know about. Saying that…
The movie itself was, of course, great. It was hilarious and had everyone in the cinema laughing out loud. Louis was his usual loveable, unflappable, wonderfully dorky self and his guests (including Marty Rathbun, pictured above) were well placed to tell the truth about Scientology – having been there themselves.
It was ballsy, Theroux didn’t let up when confronted with the classic Scientology ‘fair gaming’ of you-film-us-we-film-you. He was up in the face of every scientologist he could get close to and didn’t back away even when the police were called.
One of my absolute favourite aspects of the movie was this guy.
This guy is Andrew Perez who played the part of David Miscavige (Scientology’s charismatic leader from your children’s nightmares.) Not only was he a perfect fit for Miscavige but he also got involved in the documentary side, accompanying Louis to one of the main Scientology buildings in LA. He was wonderfully funny and scarily in-character when he needed to be. I liked the idea of getting actors to ‘play’ Miscavige and Tom Cruise, in the absence of the real deals – using words spoken by the infamous duo, it added an aspect of Black Mirror style story-telling that I thought was genius.
The Q & A
If you can get hold of it somehow, I would try and see the Q & A that followed the screening of the movie. Theroux and Dower, interviewed by Adam Buxton were funny, charming and passionate. [Below: left to right, Buxton, Theroux and Dower].
Theroux and Dower explained how they got together for the movie, the ups and downs, their enjoyable moments and their regrets, it was a great insight into the minds of the film makers and a nice round off to an enjoyable evening.