8 07 2009

Departures - Japan

Japanese Title: 「おくりびと」
Director: Yôjirô Takita
(Japan, 2008)


It’s been a while since the last time I went to the movies. I was able to watch this film for free cause I was volunteering for a Japanese cultural institution here in Toronto. I got free tickets for two and I invited over my brother, who’s also a big Japanese culture fan like me.

If you still haven’t heard, Departures won the Oscars for best Foreign Language Film. And I was able to watch it in a very traditional way – in the theatre of course where you can see how people react to the film and how the atmosphere is really created as the story goes on in the life of a musician who ended up to work on grooming the dead and putting them in their coffin.

One of the well-known aspects of Japanese film – and still unfailing to move us – is on how they address the issue of “death”. Departures showed three things that made me aware of what the death of a person is all about: it pleads your respect, it asks you to think about or maybe imagine their lives and through your emotions, the dead is loved and honoured. I was so shocked to see a very attentive audience, they’re all silent at the right moment of the film, at the most emotional part, I feel great pain for the families that lost their loved ones in the film. With respect, we become concerned and we open our hearts and minds for the dead and give them the love and honour that we should give them.

But the roles of Daigo and his boss even intensifies this. As I showed sadness for the dead, the two suddenly makes the dead alive as if they called their souls back to present themselves to their loved ones one last time before they are gone for good.

The other issue I found about this film is quite simple with regards to Daigo who suddenly finds himself going back to his homeland just to find a better way to earn money. When someone is at a desperate situation, they will even sacrifice their dignity and be ridiculed by society just to keep surviving. This is quite predictable. But of course, I don’t think the job of grooming dead people are being glorified here cause it was never about Daigo or Sasaki, his boss. It was all about those who have died – in the end, they deserve to be remembered for all the great things that they’ve done while living here on earth. And this too became a challenge for Daigo as he faces the truth about his father who left him and his mother at a young age.

Overall, I really love the camera works and the colours that bring life to every scene of the film. The actors definitely did a great job. Although the story is predictable, the little scenes become more important than the entire story which is way magical in my mind.




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