GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF
An in-depth look at the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology.
Review by Louise Keller:
If you've ever wondered about Scientology, you can't go past this riveting doco by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, that delves into its origins, philosophies and gives a fascinating glimpse of high profile members who champion it (or not). Gibney's stated aim for making the film is not to write an expose but to try to understand it and discover what people get out of it. Based on Lawrence Wright's 2013 book, Gibney's interest in religions as well as Wright's work is the trigger. The result is a meticulously researched documentary that sits well beside his other works: We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013); Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God; Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005).
Going Clear - as referred to in the title - is the penultimate level to which a practicing scientologist can achieve personal salvation. It is the gateway to 'freedom'. But there is a whole dictionary of terms to which we are introduced, including auditing, e-meter, (like a lie detector), the Bridge, OT levels (OT8 being the highest), fair game, PTS (potential trouble source) and disconnection.
Archive footage of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard shows a man who believes himself to be a god figure and savior who has the cure to the psychological ills of mankind. When asked what is Scientology's business model, journalist Tony Ortega uses the adjective 'rapacious' in its approach to making money. Hubbard's early career as a writer of sci-fi stories clearly impacts, as references to the intergalactic lord Xenu and volcanoes infiltrates into the high levels of the Church's doctrines. Gibney's depiction of Hubbard is not unsympathetic, although the latter's paranoia and mantra for control is evident until his death of a stroke in 1986. The ambitious David Miscavige's takeover of Hubbard's role is interesting, to say the least.
'Pitching stardom to promote the religion' is effective marketing. In the 70s it is Saturday Night Fever star John Travolta who becomes Scientology's key celebrity. Tom Cruise is today's high profile member and ambassador; although the allegations of the Church's role in the dismantling of the Cruise Kidman marriage are not new, in the context, the facts are breathtaking. The role of the organization to find a new girlfriend for Cruise after the relationship ended is also gossip fodder. Unsurprisingly, Cruise and Kidman declined to be interviewed for the documentary.
There is a variety of interviews including those with filmmaker Paul Haggis, who says 'If it works for you great; if not, discard it', actor Jason Beghe and former members like PR consultant Spanky Taylor and former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, who depict their experiences as being both controlling and abusive. (According to Hubbart, the aims of Scientology is 'A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights and where man is free to rise to greater heights.)
The near 2 hours running time flies and the film acts as a tantalizing window. If you are a thinking person with a curiosity about issues and the world in which we live, you will be hooked.
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GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (M)
CAST: Documentary with Lawrence Wright, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, Paul Haggis, Jason Beghe, Tom De Vocht
PRODUCER: Alex Gibney, Matt Slater, Kristen Vaurio, Laurence Wright
DIRECTOR: Alex Gibney
SCRIPT: Alex Gibney (book by Lawrence Wright)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Samuel Painter
EDITOR: Andy Grieve
MUSIC: Will Bates
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rob Locasio
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 18, 2015