Dir: John Dower, 2016
For what seems like an eternity, the dry and deadpan Louis Theroux is back and it’s a marvellous return.
Louis isn’t afraid to tackle any subject or any person.
His past feats have included a non-sex role in a gay porn film, living with the most hated family in America and spotting UFO’s that may be disguised as airplanes…..yeah, I’ll leave you to ponder that last one.
As far as Louis is concerned anything and everything is fair game for investigation.
After tackling Nazi extremists in America and spending time in one of the United States’s most dangerous prisons, it’s obvious that Theroux is intrepid and fearless and won’t let a little thing like safety get in his way.
Standing over six feet tall, wearing glasses with a monotone voice, he is the archetypal image of a nerd.
As the old saying goes, “never judge a book by its cover”. Louis Theroux is as probing and daring as stalwarts like Roger Cooke.
It was only a matter of time before Scientology became his focus, a billion dollar religion that is immensely controversial and fascinating in its practices and alleged abuses.
A highly secretive organisation, Scientology was dreamt up by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and based on his book Dianetics.
Some countries such as Britain, have refuted the body’s claims that Scientology is a religion and refused to grant it religious status.
Others, such as the US, have acknowledged it as a religion and has granted the church tax exemption.
Very protective of its image and the congregation’s exposure to “undesirables”, a thick cloud of paranoia enshrouds the church and its leader, David Miscavige.
Anyone who is thought to be “against” the church is routinely followed and spied upon with the operation always being filmed.
Theroux’s attempts to talk to Miscavige or any of its followers were always thwarted so, with the help of some ex-members, he stages the alleged abuses that happen at the church, many of them, supposedly, at the hands of Miscavige himself.
Of course, this does what he wanted all along; to trigger that paranoia and anxiety that is so prevalent in Scientology.
Random people with video cameras appear outside the film set. High ranking members turn up (with a cameraman) and lay claim to public property.
Using archive footage from the church, Louis shows us the embarrassing sycophantic behaviour of its believers and the maniacal musings of its star member, Tom Cruise.
Cackling and grinning, Cruise exhibits the persona of an ADD sufferer who hasn’t taken their tablets.
Signing billion year contracts (seriously! I’m not making this up), Scientologists pledge their allegiance to its the late founder L. Ron Hubbard (or LRH as they like to refer to him, what with, y’know, them all being “bessie” mates with him and that).
The pomp and circumstance that goes off at its awards ceremonies are ridiculous and pathetic. Cruise is shown saluting Miscavige before receiving his award.
The world’s number one A-lister, and who, it seems, wields more power than the president, is saluting this insecure and weasely little man.
But, I digress.
Louis Theroux’s documentaries always have a fun element to them.
No matter how serious the subject, Louis always injects some humour into his films.
He doesn’t write the humour but lets the absurdity talk for itself.
Be it racism, homophobia or just being an arsehole, in general, Louis simply points the camera and lets nature take its course.
In his documentaries, the bespectacled investigator comes across as an amiable and engaging sort of fellow so it’s interesting to see tensions rising between him and ex-Scientologist Mark Rathbun.
It’s clear watching this that Rathbun has issues with his past as a member and just comes across as a dick.
Hugely funny, interesting and intelligent, My Scientology Movie must surely be the best documentary this year or, at least, there’s been for a long time.