Do you want to see a damning indictment of and expose on Scientology, the work of L. Ron Hubbard and the church’s Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige? Then here you have it.
Following Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, his investigation into sex abuse in the Catholic church, Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney turns his gaze to Scientology. Based upon the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, Gibney profiles eight former members of the church, whose most prominent adherents include Hollywood celebrities, including Tom Cruise. He shines a light on how Scientology cultivates true believers, including their experiences and what they are willing to do in the name of the so-called religion.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief highlights the church’s origins – from its roots in the mind of founder L. Ron Hubbard – to its rise to popularity in the USA and beyond. The heart of the film is a series of shocking details by former insiders, including high-ranking and recognisable members, such as acclaimed screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash). They describe a systematic history of mental torment, physical abuse and betrayal by church officials, including the current leadership.
The first of those interviewed left Scientology in the ‘80s, while the last of them was with the church until last year. All appear deeply scarred. In short, it seems the church hoodwinks its members into believing the guff that L. Ron Hubbard initially created as a prolific science fiction writer. Some of its teachings – as revealed in this documentary – appear to be arrant nonsense. Terminology is invented and reinforced. Followers are brainwashed and the practices of Scientology and its offshoot (the Sea Organization) are shown to be deeply questionable at best. That includes mindless, demeaning work, ostracism, bullying and being shadowed. The pyramid of courses that devotees take proliferates and with it comes copious quantities of money. Others are simply prevailed upon to dig deep and give, in some cases millions and millions of dollars.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is a provocative tale of ego, exploitation and lust for power. While a staggering insight, with revelation after revelation at its core, at 121 minutes it was far too long and tough to sit through. A succinct hour-long telemovie would have had just as great an impact. As indicated though, that is not to say that Going Clear doesn’t pack firepower and how. The church will hate it. All the more reason to see it, I say.
Rated M, it scores a 7 out of 10.
Director: Alex Gibney
Cast: Lawrence Wright, Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun and Paul Haggis
Release Date: 18 June 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television