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Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Directed by Alex Gibney

USA, 2015

HOME, 15 July 2015

A film about the Church of Scientology, the brainchild of L. Ron Hubbard, a minor science-fiction writer.

This is as though a Horace McCoy novel were being played out in real time in present day California. Are they for real, John Travolta and Tom Cruise, when they speak up for this cult?

There’s a lot to get through here: the absurd ‘creation myth’, so-called (actually: crazy, unconvincing science-fiction nonsense, not to say poorly written), that lies at the heart of the ‘church’ (the IRS of the US government may recognise Scientology as a religion, but we don’t have to) and its teachings ; the salacious way in which its practices collect the intimate details of its members’ sex lives; the uncompromising way in which it deals with dissenters and backsliders. Most of the testimony comes from ex-members and therefore has an authenticity to it.

For myself, I was struck by the contrast between Hubbard, the church’s founder, and the current head, one David Miscavige, Tom Cruise’s bosom buddy. Acting like your typical chancer, Hubbard can be seen peddling a weird system of beliefs, trying his luck, seeing how many gullible fish he can snare. A neat, medium-term con – at any rate, it worked. Then Hubbard dies and Miscavige takes over: what is he to do with it? Well, he consolidates and plans for the future. Miscavige comes across as your typical American CEO, what with his business suit and tie, his unctuous manner and weak, unfunny jokes. You sense a ruthlessness too, mind, and some sinister accusations are thrown at him here. But basically it is that old go-getter imperative of ‘If you’ve got a lemon, make lemonade.’ Miscavige is selling the sizzle, working the tired con he’s been left with as best he can.

An enlightening film.