“They all burn the same way. The last shopping of your life is done by others.” Did this dialogue hit you real deep? If yes, it did the same for me when I watched the Japanese film “Departures (Okuribito).” The Yōjirō Takita – directed film from 2008 won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film.
The word ‘Death’ holds a different meaning for everyone. It evokes feelings of emptiness, sadness, relief, regret, resentment, and sometimes even hatred. However, Departures being a film about death is so beautiful and touching. It truly is an emotional roller-coaster film which examines the traditional Japanese funeral ritual.
In the film, Masahiro Motoki plays Daigo Kobayashi, a professional cellist for a symphony orchestra. He and his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) decide to return to their hometown after his orchestra disbands. They are hopeful to start a successful life in their hometown. Mika supports her husband’s decision and believes he will soon find a good job. However, life rarely goes according to our plans. Daigo finds a job as a mortician. When Mika finds out about Daigo’s new job, she views it as dirty or impure, which creates issues in their relationship.
“It is funny how fate works, you never know where you would end up,” says Daigo Kobayashi in the film. And, he did end up in one strange place. However, Daigo’s new work teaches him the value of love and the genuine meaning of family. It also teaches him to experience and understand the emotions of families and people who have been left alone.
For me, there were several places where I got emotional. I must say that it was beyond words in the scene where Daigo sobbed after seeing his first body but continued to practise his mortician skills despite his emotional breakdown. Even after his wife left him, he continued to work as he realised the kind of service he was doing to the deceased’s family.
Another thing one can see is that the boss in Departures represents the knowledge that comes from experience, but Kobayashi’s wife is the exact opposite; a person full of superstition whose choices lead to the couple’s misery.
Takita beautifully depicts the theme of death, which intensifies your appreciation for people around you. One can see how much effort Masahiro Motoki put into making sure the Japanese ritual is conducted perfectly in the film.
One thing I can say is that my understanding of Japanese culture has deepened by the use of classical music, stunning cinematography, humour, flawless casting, and the brilliant plot of the film. Thus, Departures indeed is a thought-provoking film and I am sure it will be for you too.