7 November 2006 | cadmandu
The Mystery Continues
This film documents the life of Jim Jones, his emergence as a charismatic and successful religious figure, and his eventual downfall.
The whole People's Temple story always struck me as just another of the 60's cult phenomena. We had Rajneesh and his farm, and uncountable other guru's who exploited, and continue to exploit, large numbers of gullible followers. The Moonies are still with us, but well below the radar most of the time.
What's odd about Jim Jones -- to me, anyway -- is that no one really seems to know who this guy really was. This film gives more insight than anything else I've seen or read. It talks about his childhood, which was extremely poor, and his family situation, which was equally grim, so we get some insight there. But he was a very carefully guarded fellow. Always wearing those shades, always talking in the manner of a preacher. But who was he really? What was he like when he took off the robes and had a beer? We may never know. His followers certainly didn't know, and no doubt that's a major part of the problem. There is one scene in this documentary in which Jones is standing at the back of a group of people at a large gathering, and his demeanor reminded me of the dictator in North Korea -- it was that kind of vague, arrogant, totally in control look. Spooky.
The most telling comment in this film was the remark made by one of the PT's former members, who said "No one ever goes and joins a cult. They join a church, or a club." But what is the tipping point at which people can tolerate psychological and physical abuse against themselves and their friends? We don't get an answer to that. The people who made this film didn't have to tell us the answer, but it would have been a better film if they had.