By Will Barber Taylor
“I find that the most inexplicable behaviour is motivated by very relatable human impulses,” comments Louis Theroux as he heads to Los Angeles for his feature documentary, in collaboration with director John Dower and double Academy® Award winning producer Simon Chinn, exploring the Church of Scientology.
Following a long fascination with the religion and with much experience in dealing with eccentric, unpalatable and unexpected human behaviour, the beguilingly unassuming Theroux won’t take no for an answer when his request to enter the Church’s headquarters is turned down. Inspired by the Church’s use of filming techniques, and aided by ex-members of the organisation, Theroux uses actors to replay some incidents people claim they experienced as members, in an attempt, to better understand the way it operates. In a bizarre twist, it becomes clear that the Church is also making a film about Louis Theroux. Suffused with a good dose of humour and moments worthy of a Hollywood script, My Scientology Movie is stranger than fiction.
Louis Theroux is one of Britain’s most personal documentary makers. His style usually necessitates close proximity to his subjects – his most famous series, When Louis Met… was based around Theroux spending as much time with his subjects as possible. Yet, whilst Theroux is denied direct contact with the two most key members of Scientology, Church leader David Miscavige and actor Tom Cruise, Theroux expertly pieces together what life is like inside the reclusive establishment through interviews and recreations.
Using actors to play Miscavige and Cruise, recreating famous incidents such as Miscavige’s destruction of an office, Theroux can give us a glimpse of the thought process behind Scientologists. This is perhaps the secret of the documentary – as Theroux is only able to provide glimpses rather than the full picture he capitalises on this. When encountering current members of the Church, Theroux attempts to interview them but they remain elusively silent. This silence speaks volumes and Theroux builds this into his narrative. When a camera man appears beside a woman claiming to be filming a documentary about Theroux, he asks the camera man if he knows why she is filming. His claim that he is a freelance camera man is debunked later when he reappears with separate Scientologists. This and other links made by Theroux help make clear the secrecy of Scientology and the way it operates. Theroux’s personal and thought provoking style is perfectly suited to presenting Scientology for what it is – a cult of personality based around delusion and fear.
As such, Theroux’s latest offering is both keeping in with his unique style whilst still presenting something new and distinct. Throughout, Theroux’s natural humour and incisive investigation shine through and make My Scientology Movie a fascinating film for anyone who enjoys Theroux’s work or is interested in Scientology.
You can purchase My Scientology Movie now from We Are Colony here. Docu