Not Rated. Why not? The MPAA is probably composed exclusively of members of Sea Org. Okay, then they'd probably rate it NC-17. Now I don't know what to believe. All I know is that I'm terrified that Sea Org is going to come after me and my family after I review my Netflix screening of My Scientology Movie
DIRECTOR: John Dower
I actually am a little nervous, guys. I'm pretty critical of this movie, which might make the higher ups of Scientology pretty happy. But the one thing that Louis Theroux got across is that you shouldn't mess with Scientology because they know what you are doing sooner than you think. Obviously, as I write this, this post has yet to be published. There's a chance that they could be reading this in real time. There could be little monitors all over the world pinging the fact that I wrote the word "Scientology" somewhere. I will just make sure not to click on the little Pi logo in the corner of my screen to stay safe. (Weird fact about me. The movie The Net made a bigger impression on me than it did on anyone else. True story. I still think that's what hacking is.) So if I get discredited and my life thrown into a hole, I'm sorry, Lauren. This blog probably wasn't worth it.
I've been interested in Scientology for a while. There is something horribly creepy about secret societies that make my mind just want to know everything about it. That makes me a bit of a hypocrite because I just finished my Easy Rider review where I condemned Dennis Hopper for attacking Christianity and here I am snooping into the private business of Scientology. None of this research was first hand. That's probably for two reasons. 1) I'm really lazy and don't feel like devoting my life to researching Scientology and 2) because if I did, I would have disappeared into the Scientology hole a long time ago and you'd see me in thirty years holding a camera up to someone's face as I shout at them. I'm a real Squirrel Buster that way. I know that people slander Christianity pretty hard, so I have to give Scientology the benefit of the doubt somehow. It is just that everything I've heard about this organization is over-the-top negative. The documentary reinforces that idea, stressing the violent tendencies of Scientology, especially in its leader David Miscavige. (See, now I've written his name! Scientology Bunker 12 is going into deployment mode right now!) The issue I have always had with Scientology is that the origins are fairly concrete. This isn't an ancient religion that is beyond proof. This is a forty year thing with well documented origins leading to L. Ron Hubbard making a bet over who could make the best religion. He won, I guess, but it has somehow spread to the most influential people ever.
I don't know if the movie is entirely successful, however. This feels like the beginning of something that could be very cool. It is just that the movie dangles any answers out of frame and doesn't bother to present the evidence. I don't want to blame Theroux because the answers to the Scientology questions I want answered are wildly out of reach for almost anyone. But we are so devoid of any actual hard evidence when it comes to Scientology that I feel like this documentary has a responsibility. I keep blaming myself for this because I don't know if Theroux had any ambitions beyond what is presented on the screen. What he portrays is the questionable life of a man after he left Scientology. I get the vibe that is the way the documentary turned out. I'm always preaching about how documentaries aren't really documentaries in the cinema verite sense. They are filmed manipulated events. There's a morsel of unreliability, but the documentarians get the narrative they want for the most part. Marty Rathbun, at least through the eyes of the doc, seemed to be this extremely unstable person. When watching a documentary where I'm really interested in the subject matter, placing the eye of doubt upon our truthteller. Theroux can only pass the information as it comes to him, which is extremely ethical on is part, but it isn't the movie I wanted to see. I wanted to see the seedy underbelly of Scientology. That stuff is there, but the real focus is how Marty Rathbun might be the most broken person, both before and after Scientology. How does that give me insight about what is true? Considering that everything that I really know about Scientology comes from gossip and word of mouth, it seems like My Scientology Movie only piles those ideas on top of the dubious information I already have.
The structure of the film tries to compensate from the lack of content. For some reason, the movie is framed around casting actors to reenact important moments in Scientology history. This is odd and if I force myself, I can see the logic in it. The filmmakers are stressing that the secretive nature of the religion holds back any actual content about the truth about the religion, but I don't think it is very effective. There is some footage of David Miscavage and promotional videos about the nature of Scientology. Why refilm these? The casting parts seem absolutely silly, like it is commenting more about the use of actors inside documentaries. We've all seen Unsolved Mysteries. We know how this works. I don't need someone to come in and play Tom Cruise in a scene imagining what it was probably like with Tom Cruise sitting out of the room. (This also is a good time that I think Tom Cruise seems like a nice guy and probably doesn't really punch people in the face. I do, weirdly and hypocritically enough, think that David Miscavage punches people all the time.) I get the heady / artistic reasons for the casting as the framing narrative, but I think it was simply done for aesthetic / humorous reasons. This is where the movie really drops the ball. The movie has no grasp of its own tone. It is talking about the horrors that abductees within the religion feel, and then will do something snide and clever. C'mon. I would rather the content speak for itself. The most effective parts of the movie, for example, are when members of the Church of Scientology try to disrupt the efforts of the filmmakers. That stuff is pure gold. I would rather in-depth looks at these people than the silly reenactments in a room. There is just something so fourth wall breaking about these moments that they don't really communicate the insanity that is trying to be conveyed. I know that they have the talents to film it correctly, because some scenes are filmed unironically. But these moments where the actors are acting around Rathbun come across as silly.
The movie just left a lot to be desired. This movie looked so promising, but it is such a tip of the iceberg that it just feels like an incomplete movie. I'm bummed about that, but what can I do? I couldn't make the movie any better.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.