Enlightenment Guaranteed

on June 08, 2001 by Christine James
   A rigid, logic-bound kitchen countertop salesman, Uwe (Uwe Ochsenknecht), who thinks all answers lie in his measuring tape, has his ordered life turned inside-out when his wife, tired of his demanding ways, abruptly leaves him, taking their boisterous children with her. One wouldn't think this would bother him as much as it does, but he soon turns up agitated and drunk on the doorstep of his brother, Gustav, a feng shui consultant who is sensitive to the subtle energies of objects but somehow oblivious to the not-so-subtle dissatisfactions of his own wife. Gustav is preparing for a trek to a Buddhist monastery where he hopes to attain enlightenment; Uwe, feeling a rare vulnerability, insists on joining him, despite much protestation.

   In the cold light of day, Uwe--who is so insensitive that he uses Gustav's beloved mini-Zen garden, a bowl of sand and rocks lovingly groomed with a tiny-tined rake, as an ashtray--bemoans what he has gotten himself into by hitching along on this journey. The brothers, obviously contemptful of one another in general, resent each other's presence and foibles, which are only magnified when a stopover in the alien world of Tokyo turns nightmarish as the two promptly lose themselves in the metropolis. But oddly, it is in the neon urban sprawl that they begin unwittingly laying their spiritual foundation, forced as they are to follow Zen tenets without even knowing it. As they lose their money, belongings, shelter and way, they start to find themselves.

   At first, the brothers' slightly annoying personalities are somewhat off-putting, but as the plot--and protagonists--develop, so does our affinity for them. Scripter/helmer Doris Dörrie expertly orchestrates the arc so that as they become more comfortable in their skins, as Buddhism instructs, the audience begins to connect and root for the unlikely duo who, upon finally arriving at the monastery, turn to each other as sources of strength and find inspiration in that which they once had no use for. "Enlightenment Guaranteed" turns out to be an uplifting little film that even manages to impart some of the eponymous promised wisdom to the viewer on a real-life level. Starring Uwe Ochsenknecht and Gustav Peter Wöhler. Directed and written by Doris Dörrie. Produced by Franz X. Gernstl. A Capitol release. Comedy/Drama. German-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 105 min

Tags: Uwe Ochsenknecht, Gustav Peter Whler, Doris Drrie, Franz X, Gernstl, Capital, Comedy/Drama, German shelter, protagonists, salesman, journey

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