The Church of Scientology has become notorious around the world. Founded by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, it spread through its message of self-improvement, but with the secrecy of a cult. British journalist Louis Theroux, adept at infiltrating a wide variety of fringe groups, decided to take on this most clandestine of religions.
The main issue is immediately apparent; Church members do not grant interviews. Indeed, the secretive David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology since the death of Hubbard in 1986, has only appeared on TV once. Theroux gets around this with an unusual strategy. He holds auditions for actors to play Miscavige and prominent Scientologist Tom Cruise, for a series of recreations of events as told by ex-Church senior members.
It is the experiences retold by the ex-members that form the basis of the documentary. Stories of the domineering, abusive Miscavige, the paranoia around the Church and then its ongoing surveillance and harassment of those who have left.
Theroux gets a taste of this first hand as he finds his car followed and his recreations filmed by observers who refuse to give out any information on who they are or why they are filming. It culminates in confrontations and letters from lawyers, warning him away.
Despite this, My Scientology Movie struggles to string together any kind of narrative. The film centres around Marty Rathbun, the former Chief Inspector at the Church of Scientology, and he helps re-create moments where he saw Miscavige go full dictator on his subordinates. These do not progress and remain oddly isolated. The result is a handful of vignettes without any strong throughline, tension or resolution.
The inability to converse with the Church itself remains the crippling barrier to the movie and it never quite gets past it, despite a scattershot approach at trying to manufacture interesting situations that never fully eventuate.
Ultimately, My Scientology Movie is a mildly interesting diversion, but remains disappointingly superficial and the Church remains as impenetrable at the end as it was at the the start.
The only extras are some trailers, with on additional information on the documentary itself.
Available on DVD from Madman Entertainment