Zen Noir vis-à-vis Myers-Briggs Personality Typology: Semiotic Multivalency as Grounds for Dialog

  • Author(s): Edward J. Godfrey
  • When: 2016-10
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • Marc Rosenbush’s film, Zen Noir (2004) is at first glance a Buddhist film wherein a troubled detective finds himself at a Zen temple with a murder to solve. But upon further investigation, it becomes evident that the film can also be understood in terms of Myers-Briggs personality typology, which is an extension of the personology and depth psychology of C.G. Jung. This suggests a multivalency which allows the imagery of the film to be interpreted in two different ways; as both suggesting Zen enlightenment and Jungian individuation. To assist with this comparison, this paper introduces the Ten Ox-Herding Paintings of Zen to symbolically contrast with the images of Zen Noir, which further emphasizes and clarifies this point. When the Buddhist themes of Zen Noir are juxtaposed face to face with the themes of depth psychology, the multivalency of its symbolism establishes a fruitful ground for cross-cultural and interdisciplinary dialog.

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