Film review: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Last night I watched the above documentary written and directed by Alex Gibney and largely based on the book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013) by Lawrence Wright that I favorably reviewed here. That review provides a lot of the information that is in the film so I will not repeat it here.

It is a film that is well worth seeing. It sticks pretty much close to the book but has some new information and seeing the people talking about their own experiences makes the experience more powerful, especially seeing the church’s tactics of defending itself by viciously going after its ‘enemies’ (usually former members who got disillusioned and left and started criticizing it) by relentlessly stalking and harassing them.

Here’s the trailer.

In an interview at the Sundance Film Festival where the film was screened, Gibney and Wright discuss how they were fascinated by the question of how it could be that people who were smart and idealistic and caring, by no means simpletons, could get sucked into an organization that was so exploitative and abusive. These people, once they left, were themselves shocked at how they did not see what was so obvious to them now.


  1. Ben Finney says

    The documentary is amazing.

    I’ve seen prior documentary exposés of Scientology, and they were shocking enough. What I wasn’t expecting from Going Clear is the seniority of the people coming forward to talk about what goes on.

    More than anything, watching it made me really hopeful: optimistic that we are in the last days of Scientology, that even people from its upper levels are ready for it to fall.

    I also ended the movie much more empathetic to the plight of the big celebrity Scientology shills. Their world has been so comprehensively and effectively shaped and insulated, that it’s quite conceivable they are mostly ignorant of the suffering their organisation causes to most of its members. I hope they can find a path to return to the real world and leave the delusions behind.

  2. Ben Finney says

    I also ended the movie much more empathetic to the plight of the big celebrity Scientology shills.

    By which I mean my opinion of them was pretty dire before, and seeing the movie increased my empathy for their situation.

    The big celebrity Scientologists are obviously still pretty comfortable and do not, in the main, suffer nearly as much as the legions of ordinary members who are ground underfoot by the cult.

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