Friday, 15 January 2010

Departures - Filmhouse - 15/1/10

It is rare, to the point of being mythical, to find perfection in this imperfect world that we live in.

The Japanese have a concept of finding beauty in imperfection called "wabi-sabi".

This film from Yojiro Takita is perfect.

Forget the fact that it won the Oscar for best foreign language film, that means many utterly dreadful films have been awarded Oscars and I wouldn't watch them again if my life depended on it. Ironically that is what "Departures" deals with; our dependence on life as well as our fear of death.

Daigo is a young cellist who loses his place in an orchestra when it is dissolved by its patron. With no job and no income he and his wife head for his home town to take up rent free residence in the home his mother left to him when she died. Once there he spots an advertisement for a job in "departures" which he assumes must be in the travel industry. What he has actually stumbled upon is a job working with "the departed". His job will consist of preparing the bodies of the dead for their journey into whatever lies next.

Initially reluctant and embarrassed by his new role Daigo keeps it from his wife but she soon finds out and leaves him after demanding he quit for something more respectful. Even when she returns, pregnant, and hopes that the shame he may visit on his child will prompt into a career move he does not because he has found his calling.

The respect, care, attention and warmth that Daigo and his employer bestow upon the recently departed is inspiring and uplifting to watch. The delicate and intricate nature of the ceremony they are involved in becomes a joyous thing and not macabre. The dead are treated with reverence and not repulsion. The result is that through them the families who are left are comforted, healed and brought closer together.

The samurai mantra of life in every breath is here given genuine meaning through those who have no breath left. Lives now lived and breath spent offer hope to families and loved ones.

Like Ozus "Tokyo Story" it is the notion of appreciating and caring for those around us because soon enough they will not be that lies at the heart of this film. While Daigo departs the orchestra, then Tokyo, then sees his wife depart it is the permanence of the departure from this life that allows him to see what is really important and to cherish the things he values the most.

Filled with real emotion, capable of making you laugh from your gut and cry pure tears this is as close to, no, scrap that...this IS perfection.


  1. We are talking about a genuine piece of cinematic excellence here.
    Now and again, and it only is now and again, you come away from a movie feeling like you did, when the best looking girl at school smiled at you. Although that never happened to me, you get where I'm coming from.
    "Departures" is a must see movie.

  2. Couldn't agree more. This was one of the best films I have ever seen, not just one of the best of the year. A real classic.