Marc Rosenbush’s film, Zen Noir (2004), is at first glance a film thoroughly ensconced in the themes of Zen Buddhism. Set in a dark and brooding film noir atmosphere, the film depicts the story of a deeply troubled detective, at the end of his rope, who finds himself at a Zen monastery in order to solve a murder. But once there, he realizes that things are not quite what they seem to be. As the film unfolds, we find that the world Rosenbush has created for us is wildly symbolic, and it becomes clear that the monastery is a symbol of the detective’s psyche and that he was not investigating a murder, but his own fear of death and loss. If this introspective, psychological element of the film is recognized, the Buddhist themes of the film become conflated with allegories of navigating the Western psyche. It is the contention of this paper that when the psychological themes of this film are investigated, we will find that the alleged Buddhist theme of enlightenment in the film must compete with a symbolic depiction of Jungian individuation.
The argument to be presented in this paper is two-fold. First, it argues that the themes of the detective’s psychological growth in Zen Noir can also be understood (arguably better) through the hermeneutic of Myers-Briggs personality typology (MBTI)—an expansion of Jung’s personality typology—and Jungian individuation. Second, as a baseline to which to compare this psychological reading, this paper introduces a second, authentic