THIS SORT OF THING?   

     We saw a lovely film on DVD last night, and I'd recommend it to
lover/seekers and seeker/lovers, one and all. It's called—smile, smile—
"Enlightenment Guaranteed".
     It's a rather obscure film. I mean, neither Roger Ebert nor the NY
TIMES ever reviewed it. I feel happy that I found it on the "Foreign"
shelf at the Walnut Creek "Blockies".
     It's a German-language movie with English subtitles, shot with a digital
camera and directed by a lady named Doris Dorrie, who is, from what I
gather, sort of an avant-garde German director.

     So...the movie is about two rather quirky fellows in a German city, they
don't even say which one, who have, well, problematic lives (who
doesn't, eh?). They wind up doing a retreat at a zen monastery in Japan,
a train ride away from Tokyo.
     The trip to the monastery becomes a kind of pilgrimage, that reminded
me, with all its craziness, of things that have happened to people,
including me, coming and going from India. There's hilarity and a
certain amount of tension. Will they ever get where they're going? (Of
course, zen teaches, as Baba does, that the journey is, or partakes of,
the destination).
     Well—this shouldn't be giving away too much—they do get there. The
second half of the film takes place in the monastery, with these two
Westerners, clumsily at first, attempting to fit in to the highly
routinized—some will say ritualized—day in a spiritual setting in an
utterly alien and seemingly inaccessible culture, where they don't speak
the language, at least the verbal one.

     There is a rhythm, beauty, and charm to the activities at the zen
monastery, though, and the two lovable Westerners find themselves
joining it, day by day. Whatever arrangements the film director made
with the abbot of the monastery to film the actual going-on there, the
result is amazing. I doubt anyone could catch on film a more penetrating
and charming glimpse of the real inner workings of such a place. I have
no idea how they did it. There are "Special Features" on the DVD, but
Barbara and I haven't seen them yet.
      At any rate, the odyssey of Gustav and Uwe, as the two fellows are
named, imbibes the ancient zen culture that is steeped in ritual, in
what Barbara and I felt to be a surprisingly positive way; graceful
beauty; and, pervading the entire atmosphere—Baba's Silence!
     I'll let you find out the rest for yourself, if I've peaked your
interest enough. The blend of spiritual and "worldly"—which amounts to
living the spiritual values, a process never without its comedy—left
Barbara and I feeling warmly enthralled by the characters, the
locations, and the entire ambience of the film.

     One final note: we also found the texture of the digitalized
cinematography strangely "un-movie-like". The whole way through I felt I
was watching something "live", the way "Playhouse 90" used to be on TV.
At first this was unsettling—I wanted that cinematic texture. I craved
it like a cup of coffee! But in the end, the story superceded all other
considerations, and I learned once again that essential considerations
transcend technical ones.
     Wishing all who make the effort to find this film a merry and
spiritually resonant journey!

For more on "Enlightenment Guaranteed":


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