irector Jeffrey Peixoto conveys the birth of Scientology through a series of interviews of believers. Before watching this film, one should know ambient, lulling music plays in the background nearly the entire duration. Peixoto’s goal was probably to impart a spiritual mood, but it is too relaxing. It is also a slow film, with gaps of quiet observation of humans and animals between interviews. Looking around the theater, one will see snoozers sprinkled through the rows. Make sure to get a full night’s sleep or at least bring a beverage to avoid heavy eyes.
First, what this movie is. It is many conversations with Scientology believers. It is the window to the ordinary Scientologist and how their life is. While at times, the speech of the subjects are slurred and confusing, the film provides an interesting look at new religion and the contradictions it brings with it: hypocrisy detected by only outside viewers, the audience members. Peixoto does a thoughtful job when choosing the subjects, some who are so passionate with their religion while others who one can see are more unsure.
Second, what this movie is not. It is not very informational on the history of Scientology. Before the film, one should gather some understanding by his or herself on what Scientology is.
L. Ron Hubbard, fiction author turned founder of the idea of dianetics that led to the religion of Scientology, wrote many famous manuscripts such as “Excalibur” in 1938 and “Dianetics” in 1950. Especially with the popularity of Dianetics, a New York Times bestseller for 28 weeks, Hubbard was encouraged to form a religion, Scientology, which he termed the “study of knowing how to know.”
Scientologists believe the soul or spirit is immortal, and the body is just a vessel that the spirit controls. There are two states of mind: reactive mind and analytical mind. The reactive mind carries traumatic memories while the analytical mind is rational and brings one close to “Clear” state free of engrams, or the memory of a past traumatic event that may not be available to the conscious mind. To get rid of engrams, Scientologists practice auditing, where a minister or auditor asks specific questions to located experiences of distress that may be buried deep within an individual. The goal of an auditor isn’t to offer solutions, but to listen and free the reactive mind.
To an average person, the film may present itself as confusing and even boring. But I recommend the film to those with an open mind, as the confusion recedes when the conversations dive deeper.