Fourth Way Perspectives

Film Review
Enlightenment Guaranteed

Directed by Doris Dorrie

If you hate, really hate," the Zen Roshi advises. "Do not eat. Do not sleep. Just hate."

Enlightenment Guaranteed, Gurdjieff, Fourth Way, Zen

Gustav and Uwe, two likeable, German middle-aged brothers seeking enlightenment, travel to the Zen monastery of Monzen, five train transfers from Tokyo. Overweight, dreamy and klutzy feng-shui adherent Gustav and cynical, hot-headed Uwe keep bumping into themselves on the road to enlightenment and not liking it at all. Still smarting from an unexpected $600 bar bill after a long night's drinking, the brothers expect to find their way back to their hotel using as markers the huge Kawasaki and Epson neon signs that hover over the square in Tokyo. But the signs are gone—the electricity has been turned off. Not speaking the language or knowing the customs, veritable strangers in a strange land, Gustav and Uwe begin their journey toward enlightenment, Gustav covering his mounting frustration and fear by glibly reading from a small book of Zen sayings and Uwe glowering at the artifice and their predicament. Like a good many of the Japanese down on their luck, the brothers end up spending the night in large cardboard boxes in a graveyard. Uwe has brought along a digital camcorder and so is ever busy videoing their trials and tribulations and then instantly playing them back, a modern form of self-observation. After a number of misadventures—stealing food, begging and losing one another—our two hapless Germans finally reach the monastery at Monzen.


The ancient, vibrant but silent space of the monastery is at first a great relief from the frenetic anthill of modern Tokyo, where everyone seemed to have been communicating by cell phone and no one was listening. But after the novelty wears off, the discipline and demands of the Zen approach to enlightenment—rising before dawn, bathing in cold water, doing zazen for hours, then sweeping-sweeping, polishing-polishing, hamstrings and shoulders aching, their monkey minds going into formatory overdrive—slowly peels away the brotherly veneer and each finds himself alone with his own identifications, all, of course, captured faithfully on Uwe's camcorder.

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