Zen for Nothing

danielle Sunday


Sunday September 30th
Cinema 2

100 min
Switzerland, 2016
German, Japanese, with English subtitles
Followed by Q&A

Hidden between the tree-lined mountains of the Western coast of Japan, lies the small Antaiji zen monastery. Here, a young woman arrives to immerse herself in the adventures of monastic life. The monastery, run by a priest from Berlin who is atypical to say the least, seems to have become a refuge for wayfarers in search of spirituality. When you look closely though, what initially seems an oasis in the middle of nature slowly but surely becomes a place of purgatory for people to try to atone for their sins. Incapable of freeing themselves from their consumer mechanisms, the monastery’s guests torture themselves in search of something that has no name or form but that they know can save them. A chimeric here and now that they realize clashes cruelly with the solution sold by many new age citizen gurus. Between the complex, almost abyssal, reflections on being gushing from zen philosophy and the clumsy surprises of the everyday, Zen for Nothing portrays an extraordinarily contemporary humanity, universal in its imperfections.

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Watch the trailer (German):

Director & cinematography: Werner Penzel – With: Sabine Timoteo, Muho Noelke & Sangha Community of Antaiji Zen Monastery Japan – Writers: Werner Penzel in collaboration with Ayako Mogi & Sabine Timoteo – Quotes: Kodo Sawaki with a poem by Jacques Prévert – Original sound recording/Editing: Ayako Mogi – Composer soundtrack: Fred Frith – Recording/Mixer soundtrack: Peter Hardt – Sound editing: Peter von Siebenthal – Final sound mixing: Felix Bussmann – Produced by: Peter Guyer, Madeleine Corbat & Werner Penzel – Coproducers: Sabine Bubeck–Paaz for ZDF–ARTE and Urs Augstburger for SRG – supported by Berner Filmfoerderung & Bundesamt für Kultur, Switzerland, Bundeskultusministerium Germany