Enlightenment Guaranteed

Enlightenment Guaranteed (2000) is a light hearted but touching comedy by German director Doris Dörrie, known for such illuminating films as Men… (1985) and Cherry Blossoms (2008), also set in Japan. It's about two affluent middle aged brothers, Uwe and Gustav, who are going through a midlife crisis and end up roaming the streets of Tokyo together. 

A German couple with three children, who seem to have everything, are finding that in their pursuit of success and providing for their family, they have somehow lost touch with the important things in life that can make a big difference in achieving happiness. This is the place where Petra, the wife of Uwe, finds herself one day, when she decides she’s had enough and leaves her husband, taking their kids with her and leaving the house empty.  

Doris Dörrie is known for dealing with controversial and spiritual issues, and the stresses of modern day living with a light humorous touch.  She explores and questions our society and why people have become so miserable while showing us how we have abandoned or lost touch with many of the simple pleasures that we take for granted in exchange for an unrealistic and unsustainable life style that is at odds with our natural environment and our health. 

When Uwe arrives home to find an abandoned house and a note from his wife that she has left him, he is devastated and calls his older brother Gustav for support. Dissatisfied with his life, Gustav is preparing to go on a spiritual journey to a Zen monastery in Japan to get in touch with his inner spirit while coming to terms with his identity, when he gets the call from his distraught brother with the news of his wife’s departure. 

The movie is filmed in a home video style and sometimes recorded with Uwe’s video camera in reality show fashion, as both brothers talk into the camera to express their thoughts and feelings about each other and the strange experiences they encounter. The video footage fits well with the travel theme and shows another dimension to the characters.

When Uwe hears about his brother’s planned trip to Tokyo, he begs him not to leave during his time of need. His brother reluctantly relents and decides to take him along with him to get his mind off his misery and spend some time together. So starts a soul searching journey with two very different people who haven’t spent this much time together since childhood and must find a way to reconcile their differences and put up with each other’s criticisms while also navigating a foreign country. 

In the human maze that is Tokyo, Japan, lost in the tech gadget obsessed city, through a series of humorous mishaps, they soon lose their money, credit cards and hotel room, which are shown in a funny vignette that exposes their differing personality traits. After a night spent sleeping in a cemetery under cardboard boxes, they eventually find their way to the Buddhist temple where their journey of self-discovery begins.  

Life in an actual Japanese Buddhist monastery is shown in remarkable authentic detail through the daily rituals and chores that must be performed by all its residents. The monks all have specific duties and they help the two brothers, who don’t speak the language, to learn and adhere to the challenging spiritual routine. 

What’s fascinating about this film is the sense of contentment the two brothers and we the audience feel when they finally learn to accept their faults and enjoy life. Putting their differences aside, they learn to respect and help each other and forge a true bond of friendship while finding peace and acceptance. 

I found this film to be truly enlightening and full of surprises and humor.   



Susan Cooper said...

I have not heard of this film yet but it does sound very interesting. No matter where you are from it seems you can relate to the story line.

Kelly Wade said...

This sounds pretty cool! I love "feel-good" movies as well as movies that deal with maintaining peace and contentment in an age where everyone is striving to obtain more and be more. I also think the idea of the Asian culture balancing old-world traditions with their intense modern day society is really cool and dynamic. Thanks for sharing this, might have to find it and watch it.

MK Slagel said...

I am stuck on this one. On one hand, I love foreign films and the plot seems relatable. On the other, however, is this idea of shooting the film like a home video. Depending on how this is done, I rather enjoy it. But sometimes, shooting the film like reality TV--similar to how The Office is shot--makes me somewhat nauseous and I feel like it flits around too much for me to really focus in on what is going on. I will have to check this film out however because I am intrigued by it.

JP said...

The video footage and reality tv take isn't distracting and is well integrated into the story to give another dimension to the characters.

JeriWB said...

The home video approach can come across very nicely. For that reason alone, I'll probably add this to my move queue.