Going Clear intimately profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology, shining a light on how they attract true believers and the things they do in the name of religion.
Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Religion has often been the source of numerous documentaries; exploring its beliefs, worshippers, stories and how they have impacted and influenced the world. However, there has never been a “religion” quite like scientology: one so bizarre and unusual that even those who have been a part of it have found tremendous difficulty properly explaining what this religion is all about. Writer and director Alex Gibney does his best to give you a complete inside look into all the insanities and inner workings behind one of the most controversial cult/church/beliefs known today. Based off the book by Lawrence Wright, “Going Clear” pieces together interviews from former members of the Church of Scientology, Scientology’s founder/creator; L. Ron Hubbard, archive footage and testimonials from those who have been affected by Scientology’s influence.
What transpires is an in-depth look into a religion that while on the surface, may seem like a strange practice believing in alien war lords and psychic energy beings; turns out to be far darker and far more destructive to people than expected. While some may believe that this documentary only focuses on the negative aspects of scientology, after learning about the barbaric and manipulative treatment this church has demonstrated on its followers; I’m hard pressed any positive side could have ever existed in this belief system. What I admire about this documentary is the intense scope and perseverance in finding out every aspect of scientology’s activities; every person reveals their deepest and darkest concerns associated with scientology and holds nothing back.
The use of imagery (such as the scanning meters scientology auditor’s use) was an effective touch; it gives you a semi sense of what auditing probably looked like and the use of the shadowy musical chairs sequence was especially spectacular. Watching this content of this documentary is difficult at times to say the least; there’s so much dark doings going on behind those big church walls that it’s a wonder scientology has been able to get away with as much as they have. I say this not to deter you from watching this film, just a means of warning that the content it features is not for the faint of heart as there is a LOT of emotionally powerful revelations that will permanently scar and impact your views on scientology; regardless of how much information you may have come across. This documentary is an experience unlike any other; I can’t remember the last time I was impacted as heavily by a documentary like this one.
Hearing firsthand experiences from actual members of scientology discuss their time with the church is what really connected me to this story. It wasn’t just about the heartache and pain the former members discussed, they also explained what first roped them into scientology and why it sounded so promising and positive in the beginning. Gibney shows you every stage of progress, position change and ripple effects scientology causes, we see how it all began and what it is continuing to do this very day. There’s a reason this is the most watched/talked about documentary on HBO right now; Scientology has a world of secrets that most people have only barely begin to understand and this documentary explores EVERYTHING. This is a powerful, intense, emotionally turbulent story that reveals a whole new side to a religion that is far stranger and darker than just being oddballs believing in aliens and measuring energy begins through meters. I cannot recommend, implore and insist you watch this documentary enough; this documentary is an experience unlike any other and it’s a masterful piece of storytelling that will expand and educate your minds on the mysterious religion that has more going on than you know.