Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sympathy For The Devil: The True Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment (2015) Boston Underground Film Festival 2016

When I heard of SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL I was instantly intrigued. I had to see the film because for most of the 40 years I had been reading about The Process Church and hearing all sorts of horrible stories that linked it to the Manson Murders, The Son of Sam killings and any number of other terrible crimes. It seemed to be a shadowy organization that was the source of great evil. Gettin the chance to get to the bottom of it all sounded like a must see so when the chance came to see the film at the Boston Underground Film Festival I jumped.

The church was founded by Robert De Grimston and his wife who left Scientology and wanted to go in a differing direction. Setting up shop in ritzy area of London they gave lectures, showed movies and had a coffee shop. They members dressed in very formal robes and stared at you with great intensity. Their workshops were designed to break down how we react to each other. It developed a reputation as a cult, which it was. It also attracted the interest of of people like John Waters and George Clinton. Eventually the group left England and ended up in Mexico and America where the reputation spread and it got dark.

But what was it?

I'm still not sure.  Certainly it wasn't the dark Satanic evil that some people made it out to be.

Based on the film its clear that the group was a bunch of truth seekers who ended up on a kind on confrontational path that intentionally rattled cages. I think they were born button pushers who saw that as a key to finding their truth. They took the various ideas floating around in the late and early 60's and forged them into something they could believe in.

The problem for me is that I'm not sure the film tells the story the way it really should be told. Related by members who were there more or less from the beginning the film lets the stories spin out and then stops and goes back and lays on shadings and then goes on. Bits and pieces come and go in the story, Founder De Grimston disappears for a huge chunk of the film only to have his story dealt with towards the end.  Before going into the film I had a loose knowledge of the group and this telling kind of jumbled up everything. I definitely need and a want a second viewing. (I freely admit that my feelings toward the film are a mix of what I knew before clashing with what is in the film)

My own reservations or no, the film does a great service to the church and to history by straightening things out, such as why the group got linked to so many terrible events.  Its a must see for anyone who wants to know about how a "cult" comes together and how a small group of believers end up being influential on the world as a whole.

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