A film by Michael Gunthor and Philipp Manderla (Liquid Frame Films)

“We are like sailors who unable to dismantle their ship in the safety of a dock must reconstruct it on the open sea.” Thus the philosopher Otto Neurath defines the existential premise of Zen and Zero, and from it this rather shabby but elegant noir opus sets its edge and glides languidly forward between a wave of innocent early 21st century longing and a reef of seasoned European nihilism.

“I always thought I was a surfer dude at heart,” narrator Michael Ginthor begins. “Too bad I came from landlocked Austria.” Ginthor moved to L.A. but quickly realized that “true dudeship lies elsewhere.”

This is a film in search of some true dudeship, as coauthors and filmmakers Gunthor (director) and Philipp Manderla (producer) and three pals (yep, five Austrians) head off south on a classic surf trip – a.k.a. a voyage of discovery. In this case a voyage of two discoveries. First, they’re looking for waves and surf enlightenment. Second, they’ve got in mind a sort of guru: the novelist Allan Weisbecker, who lives and surfs at the end of the road in Costa Rica. That’s their Omega Point.

Witty, philosophical, and narrated in noir style, the film (and the journey) is peppered with dozens of pithy aphorisms that seem to mean something and sometimes do. For instance: “When the answer can’t be put into words, neither can the question” and “Looking for the Zero Moment when nature exhibits its forces in their purest form.” And, when Weisbecker finally makes his appearance, just after they’ve surrendered their attachment to finding him, he asks them: “How do you describe a moment when there’s nothing going on in your head?”

Nice waves are had along the way at Puerto and elsewhere, the cinematography of David Auerbach and Edwin Steinitz is gritty and excellent, and Steinitz’ editing is nuanced and truly brilliant. The film (which deals much with the mundane of travel) is buoyed and carried along on original music by Herwig Mauer – really fantastic.

Winner of Best Story and Best Director at January’s X-Dance Festival, Zen and Zero is a great ride … but languid … and almost reluctantly inspired. Sort of the epitome of surfer style and … maybe even … true dudeship.

Words DK