Zen For Nothing


Mary D. Fisher Theatre Thu, Aug 22 4:00 PM
Mary D. Fisher Theatre Thu, Aug 22 7:00 PM
Film Info
Event Type:Documentary Feature
Release Year:2016
Run Time:100 minutes
Production Country:Switzerland, Germany, Japan
Original Language:English, Japanese, German
Cast/Crew Info
Director:Werner Penzel


Provocatively titled, “Zen For Nothing” is a masterful immersion into life at a Japanese Zen monastery over three seasons. Hidden between the tree-lined mountains of the Western coast of Japan, the small Antaiji Zen monastery, run by a German monk from Berlin who is peculiar to say the least, seems to have become a sanctuary for wanderers in search of spirituality. One of these is actress Sabine Timoteo who leaves her job and family behind in Switzerland to immerse herself in monastic life through the autumn, winter and spring.

Sabine arrives at Antaiji and, after a brief welcome, she begins to learn the monastery rules: how to bow, sit in the meditation hall, carry out movements with chopsticks, etc. There’s more to life there than meditation, farming, and maintenance, however: there are picnics, music, and Wi-Fi. And after the last snow has melted away, the nuns and monks travel to Osaka, where they recite sutras in front of subway entrances as they solicit offerings in their traditional monk’s robes.

In his new documentary, Swiss director Werner Penzel follows this young woman as she encounters the philosophy of the Japanese Zen master Kodo Sawaki and the surprises brought forth by everyday monastic life. Quietly compelling, “Zen For Nothing” is filled with moments of pristine beauty and meditative calm, as well as humor and humanity.