Saturday, September 5, 2009

Zen - A Movie about Dogen

This is a rare Japanese movie on Zen Buddhism. The story revolves around the life of Japanese Zen master Dogen in the 13th century.

It is a religious movie, so you can expect some stereo types, such as the portrait of endurance, persistence, courage, generosity, etc. The story does not have drastic ups and downs, everything flows seamlessly.

This movie will not fit into the category of good entertainment, however, it does fit into the category of chicken soup for the soul. Watching this movie makes you feel calm and peaceful. Maybe just for a moment, it makes you feel more detached from the material world, your soul is free from all the worries. This very much thanks to the director/cameraman's mastership of cinegraphy. The scenes are speechlessly beautiful, especially those of Chinese landscape.

The first 20 or so minutes of the film describes Dogen's learning experience in China. It is interesting to see all the Japanese actors speaking accented Chinese. During the Tang & Song Dynasties, a lot of Japanese scholars, monks went to China to study and learn the Chinese culture and technology. They brought back what they learnt in China faithfully to Japan, and they actually preserve those cultural relics till today. When I was in Japan, I was pleasingly surprised by the evident influence of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. After many dynasty changes over the last one two thousand years, you can hardly see anything Tang Dynasty style in China anymore, but you can see plenty in Japan. We really have the Japanese to thank for preserving Chinese cultural relics.

My rating: 4/5

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