My boyfriend and I watched this film the other day. Departures (Okuribito). I have to say it’s simply one of THE best films I have ever seen.
Directed by Yojiro Takita, Departures won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film in 2009. As well it should have. Beautifully acted with a moving score, it explores the depths of love and loss. Truly a film that has everything.
Daigo Kobayashi (increidbly played by Masahiro Motoki) is a cellist whose symphony is disbanded due to financial problems. He moves with his wife back to his hometown and lives in the house his mother left to him when she died two years earlier. In need of work, Daigo reads a job opportunity in the paper for the position of NK, “Assisting Departures”. Thinking it’s an ad for a travel agency position, he applies only to find out the job is assisting the “departed” by preparing their bodies for encoffinment. Daigo reluctantly takes the job because the pay is so good, yet hides his new employment from his wife. As he learns the ritual process of encoffinment, discovering the tenderness and compassion with which the passage of death is treated, he begins to like his job, finding in it a kind of satisfaction he has never before known. The story becomes interwoven with his own past in the town and his grief of having been abandoned by his father as a young boy.
If this sounds morbid, I assure you it isn’t. Even just writing about the film, I start to cry because it was so beautiful. The ceremony of encoffinment itself made me feel like our own treatment of death in this society just completely is lacking in wisdom and compassion. The ritual as I saw it in the film, is so much more for the wellbeing of the soul who has departed even though it does help the loved ones left behind as well. I don’t want to give away more of this film because I could just go on but you can rent it easily and I feel that if you do, you’ll understand what I mean. Although the movie is not a sad one, if you watch it, make sure you have plenty of tissues because you will be moved to tears.