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October 30, 2014   Login
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 Enlightenment Guaranteed Minimize
A film reviewed by Michèle Gagnier

“Enlightenment Guaranteed” is a low-budget film by independent German filmmaker Doris Döörrie who shot the movie on digital video, which gives it a documentary look. It is an engaging and amusing view of relationships, mid-life crises and road movies all the while blending in Zen concepts. It features two German brothers who are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of self-awareness and realisation. Uwe is an uptight seller of kitchen furnishings whose wife, fed up with his self-centred behaviour, leaves with the children and the house contents while he is out jogging. He is left with a bag of clothes and his digital video camera. Gustav is a feng shui consultant and devotee of Eastern disciplines, and is preparing to leave for an extended retreat at a Zen monastery at Monzen, in Japan. It is revealed that the two men are brothers when Uwe lands on Gustav's doorstep in a state of drunken despondency. He begs Gustav to take him along on his retreat rather than return to an empty house.

Then a funny thing happens on the way to the Monastery. The two men stop over in a Tokyo hotel, and they hit the town using neon billboards as markers to later retrace their steps back. Soaking up more than a few drinks that dim their bearings, they are quickly cast adrift in a land of foreign tongues when the billboards go dark, strangers in a strange land. A comedy of misadventures ensues which get progressively more outrageous and comically tragic. Losing all their money, they find themselves homeless, finding shelter in cardboard boxes, steal, beg and eventually get rescued by Anica, a fellow German living in Tokyo. She helps them along on their way to the monastery in Monzen.

At the monastery, the stark life and rigors of meditation, prayer, mopping, and other daily rituals takes it toll on Gustav, while it is surprisingly welcomed by his unbelieving brother. It is a slow-paced existence but as all in retreats, they learn many lessons during their stay. Punctuated throughout are their comments to Uwe's video camera and quotes the brothers read from Gutstav's Buddhist book , which provides insights and teachings that help them through their individual sufferings. In the end, they both come to some wisdom and apply mindfulness in their lives.

I appreciated the humor and gentleness in this film and could certainly relate to some of the resistance and wisdom it presented. I recommend it to my fellow meditators and mindfulness practitioners to take a look. It's not often there are really wonderful films out there and I think this one is a hidden gem.

Michele took MBSR and facilitates Writing for Insight courses geared to MBSR graduates (see ORMN website).


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Without leaving his house, one can know everything that is necessary. Without leaving himself, one can grasp all wisdom.

Lao Tzu

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acceptance      beginner's mind      patience      trust      letting go      non-striving      non-judging      compassion