Review of 'Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief'

scientology.jpg This is quite an amazing piece of work exposing a lot of the dirty laundry of Scientology. It consists of interviews with former members of the church talking about what they experienced but it also provides a bit of history of Scientology as well.

The movie explains that there is a path to enlightenment containing various stages that members of Scientology pass through. Each stage has tests that cost more and more money as you progress with a key testing method being “going clear” where the subject is attached to a device that measures the “negativity” associated with an event being recalled – The idea is that, after revisiting the event over and over again you have to register no negativity on the meter to indicate to have “gone clear” – That the bad memory no longer causes you any distress. An interesting idea but it's scientific basis is not explored in any way here.

We learn of the “Sea Org” who were originally formed by the founder of the movement, L. Ron Hubbard, as the crew for his taught who were then made into teachers and leaders in the organization. We are told that Hubbard was a prolific writer (often of “pulp” Science Fiction in the early 1950s) but not necessarily a very compassionate one having alienated several wives. Hubbard thought he might share with others his thoughts on life and philosophy by writing the book “Dianetics” which went on to spawn the Scientology movement. We are told of the struggles in the middle part of the 20th century that Hubbard and, later, the church itself had with the IRS as they insisted they were a church and, therefore, were not required to pay taxes on their income. It all leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.

The most damning material is about the abuse of some members of the church who were subjected to physical and psychological assaults for their perceived “straying from the path”. Many of the former members who are interviewed here talk about how they saw the power held by the church being used for self gain and, when questioned, were very quickly rejected and subjected to harassment. Indeed, the Scientology movement is well known for its frequent recourse to litigation to suppress any negative portrayal of their church.

I found the film certainly quite interesting and enlightening. I have known of the church for some time, particularly with such well-known members as John Travolta and Tom Cruise, and even a bit of what they believed though this movie certainly explained a lot more to me. With such an expose it was certainly quite deliberately aimed against the church so it was quite one-sided and, more prosaically, I found it a bit long with the same points repeated over and over again.

Interesting and, often, quite shocking.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2015-10-01

Directed by: Gibney Alex

Studio: HBO Documentary Films

Year: 2015

Length: 119 minutes

Genre: Documentary