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This movie provides a thoughtful analysis of the things that are truly worthy of respect and honor, and the things that we culturally decide are shameful and embarrassing that absolutely shouldn’t be. This was beautifully and subtly acted and I was completely captivated by the sheer quiet eloquence and beauty of it. It is in my top 5 favorite movies I’ve seen in my lifetime (I’m early 50’s). Unforgettable. I saw it free on Prime a year to two ago. I eventually decided I couldn’t live without it and had to purchase it to watch again and again.
Reviewed in the United States on December 25, 2017
This is a very special movie, the story is put together well and is balanced with humor. Death is observed in a loving and caring way as the characters and family members grow enlightened. Each time I see this movie I catch some new revelation, or symbol of greater meaning. Please do not pass this gem up because of subtitles.
Sincerely one of the BEST movies I've ever seen! To those of you who don't like subtitled movies, I say, don't let that stand in your way of this movie. It is a movie with humor, poignancy, pathos, and an uplifting message of life! The story is about a musician who decides to start over when the orchestra he plays in disbands. I don't want to say much more, just watch this movie - you'll never forget it and it's message of family, love, and life!
A cellist leaves Tokyo to return to his hometown and takes a job washing and dressing the dead for their coffins before cremation.
This was a quiet, spare, gorgeously emotional movie that explores the sometimes painful and broken relationships between parents and children, as well as the Japanese cultural distaste for those who come in contact with the dead.
And I was completely memorized by the original soundtrack, especially the cello solo the main character plays in memory of the father who left him as a child. No surprise that after googling the composer, it turned out to be the great movie (and Ghibli collaborator) Joe Hisaishi/久石 譲. The main theme has almost a Copeland feel to it at times, which was particularly emotionally striking when the movie portrays the main character playing the cello outdoors with the Yamagata mountains in the background just as flock of white swans takes flight.
The restrained conversations, lingering facial shots, and slower pace of the movie, content to follow mundane movements of a woman refilling a kerosene heater, or a man grilling puffer fish roe as well as lending ceremony and gravitas to the act of placing makeup on a corpse’s face was pure Japanese culture in my eyes. As was the distaste for the main character’s job from the wife and friends.
I had to explain to Tokyo Boy that it wasn’t likely a USA mortician would be left by his wife solely because of his job.
But in the end, what makes the movie so enjoyable (despite some slighly overwrought emotions on the part of the main character, and an interaction with his wife that borders on assault in my American eyes as he is overwhelmed by emotions. It made me really uncomfortable) is what else it shares with Ghibli’s movies like Totoro, besides a composer: an overwhelming nostalgia for a more traditonal and slower-paced country life.
From scenes of bathing in a old sento/public bath, to the sweeping mountain and river scenes, to the wife breathing in country air, and the interconnected small community of the village where people know intimate details, to the rows of old-fashioned and dilapidated buildings in the town, the movie paints a wistfulness for a disappearing way of life at the same time it teaches us the importance and gravity of caring for our dead as a way of healing our own relationships.
There are few other heavy-handed melodramatic moments other than the uncomfortable wife/husband moment…but most of the movie is a quiet, understated kind of emotional build up finely conveyed by some of the most famous, venerable veterans of Japanese cinema. Well done, lovely, definitely recommended for anyone interested in Japanese culture or traditions as well as those with an appreciation for deep exploration of human emotion. Tokyo Boy thought it was amazing as well
Departures is a movie which involves the viewer in an ancient Japanese tradition of the honoring of the dead and the deceased's family and relatives. By using a story line approach instead of a documentary one, the viewer, who is not familiar with the Japanese culture or this tradition, is drawn into this elaborate procedure and ceremony by viewing a young man who has lost his job. The young man is married and needs to provide for his wife. The man applies for a job, an "encoffiner" (Nokanashi). He has no idea of what this word means or entails. So he becomes educated, as we are at the same time. His reaction is probably what most viewers may initially experience; dealing with dead bodies is not a vocation easily chosen. The movie handles this conflict in a remarkably careful and satisfying manner; in fact, for this viewer my reaction was one of appreciation for this cultural tradition and especially for the compassion for the surviving family and relatives.
Departures (おくりびと, Hepburn: Okuribito, "one who sends off") (2008) is a Japanese drama film directed by Yōjirō Takita, starring Masahiro Motoki, Ryōko Hirosue, & Tsutomu Yamazaki. The film follows a young man who returns to his hometown after a failed career as a cellist & stumbles across work as a nōkanshi (a traditional Japanese ritual mortician). He is subjected to prejudice from those around him, including from his wife, because of strong social taboos against people who deal with death. Here are the pros & cons of this film as I see it, I hope this helps you. Pros: 1. This film makes it on my personal list of my favourite films of all time (currently a list of only 29 films) 2. Nice cinematography 3. Very well directed, edited, & superb acting overall 4. An interesting film on many levels including culture 5. Excellent story & plot 6. Nice music 7. This film runs the gamut of emotions & is one of the rare films that made me laugh out loud in parts Cons: 1. This film made me miss Japan & the wonderful people I met & know there
A very good film. I'd give it five stars if I thought that I, or others, were likely to want to watch it multiple times, which seems unlikely to me, although it really is a very good film.
It is about a (briefly) professional cello player who loses his job and moves to his (now deceased) mother's old house in a more rural, small town, part of Japan. He answers an ambiguously worded advert for a vacancy as someone who prepares corpses for putting into their coffin, something that I haven't come across in Western Europe, but which is something I can see will be appreciated in some other societies. Calling him an embalmer isn't quite correct, but is along the right lines, so to speak. The duly prepared corpses are cremated.
The job grows on him, especially when he sees how much the bereaved appreciated the work. If at first his wife is appalled, she sees her husband do the business on the woman who had the local bath-house, and realises that for some people the job that he does is very important. In that culture what is done is a mark of love and respect.
The end of the film has the former professional cellist do up his long-estranged but now recently deceased Dad, and the bitterness that he felt towards him is turned into love.
In effect, it is story of love and redemption, and it is done very, very, well indeed. Definitely worth buying and watching, although, as I have written above, you are unlikely to want to watch it multiple times. It'll stand being watched more than once, but given a choice and a limited amount of leisure time most people will plump for other films that just somehow have more for them.
5.0 out of 5 starsTouching, heartwarming and occasionally comic. RECOMMENDED
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 4, 2018
This is a wonderfully touching and at times even comic tale of a cello player who finds himself without an orchestra. Going home to his late mothers house with his wife, out in a small country town he seeks employment and finds himself - to his surprise and shock - working as an assistant (apprentice?) encoffiner. He takes the recently deceased and according to correct form prepares them for their last journey.
Although originally repelled by the task, he comes to see the importance of his care to the bereaved and eventually to himself too.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 16, 2012
This film grabbed from the start because the opening scenes are of a Japanese pre-funeral rite called encoffinment. Like a Japanese tea ceremony for the dead it is fascinating in its own right and this allowed the audience to establish the characters. There were some real funny parts that made me think of the early and good Six Feet Under. But the director did not play this for laughs, and there was a some pathos that made you cheer for Daigo the uneployed cellist turned undertaker. Although not a professional musician Masahiro Motoki learned the cello so that he could carry of his performance credibly. The soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi is very appropriate. He is known as the John Williams of Japan. The film is about endings and beginnings and it achieves both very well.
5.0 out of 5 starsDeep, subtle, moving and inspiring
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 11, 2011
I'm organising the first Six Feet Under convention in Bournemouth in 2011, and someone told me to look at this film with a few to showing it at the convention. From the first few minutes you know you're in for something special and this proves to be an intriguing film mainly because you know it's not necessarily going to conform to Hollywood storytelling principles. I think the film is about dignity. It's about how precious life is but how difficult it is, too. It plays with ideas of fate and choice and redemption in very satisfying ways. The actors are very beautiful. I'd never have expected to appreciate Japanese humour, but there's lots of it. The director has given us some profound symbols - the main character's relationship with his father perhaps suggests some concept of God. The cremation operator gives a great speech and plays Father Time brilliantly. The film also revels in life - bathing and eating. It's a very moving experience, and provides a fresh perspective on life and death.
A Beautiful and sensitive film about family life and it's ups and downs. I gave a copy to the funeral directors and celebrant sent my father's burial recently. Cannot recommend this film highly enough.