departures – japan (2008)


I TiVo’ed this off of Film4 AGES ago and just hadn’t got around to watching it.  seeing as I have been suffering with a severe chest infection for about 10 days now, it was the ideal time to get through a backlog of films.

I don’t really know what I thought this was about – something to do with planes or airports or tourists probably – but it’s an absolute gem.

Masahiro Motoki stars as Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist in a Tokyo orchestra.  When the orchestra is disbanded, Kobayashi’s debts are too much for him and his wife to handle.  He is forced to sell his cello and return to the town where he was brought up.  His mother died two years previously, leaving him the family home as his father had left when he was six.

He looks for work and stumbles across an advert asking for someone to help with ‘departures’ – no former experience necessary.  Him and his wife decide the job must be for something like a tour guide and so he applies and goes along for an interview.

After a rather bizarre interview, he discovers that the job is to help with ‘the departed’ – as an ‘encoffiner’, performing a cleansing and preparation ritual for the newly deceased in front of their loved ones, readying the body for the funeral.

This is an absolutely beautiful film (with a lot of cello music unsurprisingly), and explores reactions to death, loyalty and tradition.  The way the ritual itself is performed is breathtaking and dignified, and makes you wish that everyone was treated with such respect after death.

It is also extremely funny, the comic elements flowingly easily with the more emotional.

I loved every single minute of it – it didn’t even seem corny when he played the cello on top of a hill, as the music fit with the montage of the different families paying their respects to their loved ones beautifully.

You HAVE to watch this.  My rating – 10/10


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