26/09/2016 | Tom Van Kalken

After spending the last 10 years in the United States interviewing everyone from paedophiles to porn stars, documentarian and professional British person Louis Theroux may finally be ready to tackle his most bizarre subject yet; scientology.

The ‘religion’, founded by L Ron Hubbard in the late 1960s, has always been an overly secretive one, and because of this, its inner-workings have, for a long time, remained a mystery. Louis has often described himself as a ‘student of bizarre organisations and eccentric people’, and with that context it seems only natural then that he would tackle a subject as foreboding as ‘the largest cult in America’.


Of course, being such an infamously secretive organisation, it will come as no surprise that Theroux’s polite requests for access to the church weer met with rejection, distain and threats of legal action. Despite this lack of access, or rather because of it, Theroux creates a documentary that is not only insightful but also consistently funny.


Teaming up with Searching for Sugar Man and Man on Wire producer Simon Chinn, and Thriller in Manilla director John Dower, Theroux endeavours to create his own re-enactments of the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology in the vein of Joshua Oppenheimer’s brilliant film, The Act of Killing.


Aided by ex-scientologists, including former second-in-command Marty Rathbun, Theroux goes about casting actors to play key Scientology figures, such as David Miscavige and even Tom Cruise; having them perform publicly available speeches, as well as recreating private meetings as recalled by Rathbun.

However, Rathbun’s greatest contribution to the documentary is his revealing testimonial of how deeply scarred and fragmented this church can leave ‘seemingly reasonable people’.


The second aspect that makes Theroux’s film so engaging is that, at a certain point in the film, it becomes clear that the church’s leadership has gotten word of his project and are doing everything in their power to shut it down.


The tactics deployed to deter Theroux from reporting are at times silly, but reveal a much larger sinister insight into an organisation that has such fear of retribution that it would do almost anything to avoid even the simplest line of questioning.


As the title suggests, the insights that Theroux provides are very much his own (as opposed to the more comprehensive expose of Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief). However, the film delivers a funny, entertaining and thought-provoking insight into an otherwise bizarre and all-round cryptic subject; what else would you expect from Mr Theroux?