Louis Theroux is an amazing man. Though he is a bit of a stiff, strange Brit, he is an excellent journalist and a very successful documentary maker. I really enjoyed his Weird Weekends series and the amazing work he did with The Most Hated Family In America. I love his interview style, leaving lots of silent moments for other people to feel awkward about (which will make them speak up), and I love how he finds interesting subjects to study.
My Scientology Movie
That is why I was super disappointed that I could not get tickets for the showing of his newest documentary called My Scientology Movie, as there was a special screening in Amsterdam Eye where he was attending to comment on it. And now that I have seen the movie itself, I am even more sorry I was not there when he was presenting it, cause it feels like I have missed something that he might have commented upon during his visit to Amsterdam.
Cause to be honest with you, I thought it was bad. It really was a big disappointment to me, and the documentary was so scattered, it felt like I was looking at the raw footage before editing instead of a full story on Scientology. The beginning is so vague, with the auditioning, and there is not a lot of explanation about what Scientology is. Let me be clear, I am not a Scientologist trying to bad mouth our dear Louis, definitely not, but I do think he could have done a way better job than he has.
And I think he is aware of that too, as he starts the documentary by stating how he was hoping he would be the first journalist to actually get more insight into the religious organization, and how they simply did not give him that access he was longing for. But, I do not think that is an excuse for what he eventually did make. It almost feels like he had no more patience, and he just wanted to get something out there as it already took him and his interviewees so much time, that he decided just to release what he had, even though it is not that good.
I can imagine he might not want to explain the whole abc of Scientology again, because there are already a few modern documentaries about that. That is fine, but what did he want to tell? That does not really become very clear in this documentary. They hire some actors to act out things that are already on tape (which is weird, why not just use the original footage) and they show off one of the former Scientologists more as a difficult person than as a person that actually brings interesting information to the table.
Sure, there are many good things about the documentary too. It is very odd how Louis is filmed too, and the people that are yelling at them are very intense, but it feels like it is just not a cohesive story. Then they are next to the film studio where the pretty awesome commercials are filmed for Scientology, and then they drive past the place where the leader of the church should be working from, and then they are back at their film location with their actors, and then there was this weird bikini lady in the beginning, it is all so random, even a millennial like me can’t really dig it.
It is a shame Scientology has not come forward as a somewhat more open religion, but I don’t think we can really blame them for turning their backs on the rest of this planet. I mean, if they would attend our talk shows for example, they would probably see that as showing to be okay with the way we live, which they apparently aren’t. It is too bad though, cause the lack of communication makes the rest of us wonder about what happens within those walls. That is just human nature right, to be curious about such things?
In the end it does not even matter that it is about Scientology, cause I think Louis could have done a way better job at making the documentary, even though he did not get the story from the Scientology Church’ perspective. I am disappointed Louis, hopefully you will make better stuff again soon!
Excellent review and a very interesting film. It just opened in Sydney and IMO it is engaging, interesting and funny, but audiences who will see right through the artifice of its constructions. But it should not be called documentary, and you are right in saying it feels unedited.