This isn’t Louis’ usual foray into the weird. This time he’s not invited. We’ve seen him in the homes of extremists and improbables, but this is the closest we’ve seen Louis come to being an undercover journalist -and he’s up against the big leagues this time, there’s razor wire, there’s a car chase, and there’s Louis shouting commands at an ashtray. You know, normal Church stuff.
And if there wasn’t something strange enough about Louis being audited (a practice of Scientology) by the ex-second-in-charge Scientologist Marty Rathbun and getting a class on the private practices of the Church, Louis is auditioning people to play Scientologist leader David Miscavige and famed adherent Tom Cruise. LA actors audition to play these people for the documentary as they set up some make-believe scenes which Rathbun directs as reinactments of what he’s seen and done in Scientology.
One of the harder parts for me to watch, was seeing Louis clash with Marty Rathbun. After contributing so much to this documentary, Marty opens up about his personal losses in leaving Scientology and Louis continues to question him with probing and irritating questions until Marty cusses him out and walks away. A disappointing performance by Louis there, who seemed to look on Marty as the subject matter rather than a film partner in that moment.
In general, conflict seems to be something Louis wanders through like a waking child, never making himself a threat but just sort of teasing out a persons unsual beliefs which start as a bewildering and convoluded nuance, but end as a basic cro-magnon club-swinging of ideals, and once given the opportunity to dress themselves down and become the fool occasionally they become irate. And after witnessing the building rage in his interviewee, Louis often asks, “Are you upset?” “Is this difficult for you?”
And while we see a little of this in My Scientology Movie, since Louis isn’t welcomed into the Church, there are less interviews and more scuffles on the street, flashing lights and shouting matches. It’s great to finally see Louis get riled up by his subject. And there’s something very ‘wild west’ about having two film crews pointing cameras at each other. Shooting each other.
The story of Scientology is a sad and mysterious one, and it has already been told by Peabody Award winning film Going Clear in 2015, so what does Louis have to say on the matter that hasn’t already been said? Well perhaps not much in terms of an exposé, but as usual with Louis the hard facts of the matter are only the beginning. The film includes just enough about the history and form of Scientology to give us a clue and then it’s off to see the wizard, so to speak.
Through various media we know more about Scientology now, but only from a distance. Louis wants to touch the thing, to be part of the thing and to understand how this religion gives people hope while creating such violent extremists. Louis is our common bloke giving Scientology a go, even if they won’t have him.
By Laban Cole