Scientology is fair game for documentary makers, which may possibly explain why none of them has killed it off. They need to have it as hunters need prey. Without having the species — L. Ron Hubbard and his well-known, for some infamous, religious group — what would come about to the season?
Scientology. Feel of it as a prize boar that is never ever a prize bore. We really like to chase it we attempt to chase it down yet we’re fascinated by its eluding, evading impudence. As if aware that Alex Gibney’s 2015 documentary about the Dianetics gang, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, rumbling its bellyful of damning details, was a difficult act to stick to — whilst nonetheless not delivering the death blow — British docu-sleuth Louis Theroux tries the playful approach. In My Scientology Film he goes to California, rounds up a band of wannabe actors and workshops them in recreations of infamous sect tactics for brainwashing or infamous incidents of browbeating and persecution. (The young actors playing Tom Cruise and David Miscavige, Scientology’s head because Hubbard’s death, are dead ringers.)
Theroux’s on-hand specialist, doubling as dramaturge and drama coach, is Hubbard defector Marty Rathbun. He is a garrulous, excitable fellow which may clarify why he keeps losing his temper. Geeky-featured Louis, we all know, is a pseudo-simpleton who stands there asking “naive” concerns. They provoke the innocent and enrage the guilty. Rathbun’s past as a best Hubbardite, an “Inspector General” forsooth, triggers two or 3 Rathbun tantrums. For far better drama still — moving on — there are confrontations with actual camera-wielding snoops sent from Hubbard HQ (1 assumes) to doorstep Louis’s production venues. When he complains about their surveillance, a girl snoop complains that he is harassing her. Louis: “You’re filming me! How can I be harassing you?”
The movie goes nowhere, you might adjudge by the end, if you’re harsh. But it has a lot of informed and informative entertaining going nowhere. And probably a going-nowhere documentary is the appropriate answer to a malignant, hypocritical religious institution — tax-exempt in its native US, of course — that creates its personal Lewis Carroll itineraries for taking believers from Point A to Point A even though convincing them they’re travelling a whole alphabet of growth and enlightenment.