The (Zen) Buddhist Heart of I ♥ Huckabees

By Edwin Ng


1. Donna Yarri, “I ♥ Huckabees” (Film Review), Journal of Film and Religion 10, no.1 (2006),, (28 November 2008).

2. Russell quoted in Gavin Smith, “Hearts and Minds,” Film Comment 40, no. 5 (2004), 31.

3. D.T. Suzuki quoted in David Loy, “Indra’s Postmodern Net,” Philosophy East and West 43, no. 3 (1993), 483.

4. Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), 2.

5. Cook, 2.

6. Cook, 2.

7. Russell quoted in Smith, 33.

8. Thich Nhat Hanh, Transformation and Healing: Sūtra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness (California: Parallax, 1990), 126.

9. D.T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D.T. Suzuki, edited by William Barrett (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1956), 134-154.

10. Dogen quoted in David Loy, The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory (Boston: Wisdom, 2003), 183.

11. Suzuki, 160.

12. Norbu quoted in Susan Jake and Chendebji, “The God of Small Film,” in Time Magazine Online, 27 January 2003, <,9171,411452-2,00.html>, (4 December 2007). Norbu, whose religious title is Dzongar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, is recognized as a tulku (reincarnation of a high lama) of the Khyentse lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Like many contemporary Buddhists, he is eager to take Buddhism beyond its traditional confines to rearticulate it afresh for contemporary audiences. He is noted for his films, The Cup (1999) and Travellers and Magicians (2003).

13. A point should be made here about special effects which tend to be disparaged as mere “eye candy”, as if they have little significance for the narrative. This is especially so if they are highly elaborate and spectacular, like those in science fiction films. While it is true that special effects often disrupt narrative flow to draw attention to themselves, Vivian Sobchack has argued that they serve to evoke affective response, from “joyous intensities” to “euphoria” to the “sublime”, the very qualities any story would seek to evoke; see Vivian Sobchack, Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film (New York: Ungar, 1987), 282-283. I have borrowed ideas about special effects from studies on science fiction cinema; I believe the insights revealed about visual effects in these studies can be transposed to the example here and to cinema more generally. See also, Annette Kuhn, “Spectators: Introduction,” Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, ed. Annette Kuhn (New York: Verso, 1990), 145-151.

14. Russell quoted in Smith, 32. For reasons mentioned above, I do not agree with Russell that spectacular effects necessarily make it less likely for the viewer to be as startled or questioned. However, I agree that simple effects, rather than the spectacular kinds found in the sci-fi genre, are more evocative in this instance.

15. Margaret Morse, “Body and Screen,” Wide Angle 21, no.1 (1999), 64.

16. Morse, 64.

17. Morse, 64.

18. Greg Watkins, “Seeing and Being Seen: Distinctive Filmic and Religious Elements in Film,” Journal of Film and Religion 3, no.2 (1999),, (2 December 2008).

19. Russell quoted in Smith, 31. His previous film Three Kings (1999), for example, interrogates the legacy of the first Gulf War.

20. David Loy, “Religion of the Market,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65, no.2 (1997), 277.

21. Loy, “Religion of the Market,” 277-278.

22. Russell quoted in Smith, 31.

23. See Naomi Klein, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (London: Flamingo, 2000).

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