Autumn 2010 Features series
Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 4:00pm
Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 7:00pm
Directed by Yôjirô Takita
Screenplay by Kundô Koyama
Starring Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kimiko Yo
Rated G ·
Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (2009) and 32 additional international awards, Departures is a delightful and sensitive journey into the heartland of Japan and an astonishingly beautiful look at a sacred part of Japan’s cultural heritage.
A premiere symphony orchestra in Tokyo disbands, leaving Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) suddenly unemployed. While suffering from an innate sense that he is a mediocre musician, he also faces up to the fact that not everyone who has devoted his or her life to music can become a top artist. So with wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) in tow, he moves back to his hometown in the northeastern prefecture of Yamagata. They settle into the crumbling remains of his mother’s house, which doubled as the local pub.
Spotting a ‘Help Wanted’ ad featuring the word “departures,” he is excited about the prospect of trying a new career in the travel industry. He arrives for the interview, curiously eyeing the coffins lining the back wall of the office. The company owner, Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), hires him on the spot, with only a cursory glance at his resume. When Daigo finally ventures to ask what, exactly, is involved, he is stunned to learn that he is now in the business of the ceremonial “encoffination” of corpses prior to cremation. Sasaki urges him to take the job, proffering large amounts of cash. He’s getting older and needs someone to carry on the tradition.
In desperate straits, Daigo overcomes his initial trepidation and begins to travel around Hirano with Sasaki. Sasaki is comically matter-of-fact but firm in his directives and the contention that they are providing an important service to their community. True to Sasaki’s expectations, Daigo develops a deep respect for life—in all its variations—and a profound empathy for people trying to make peace with the finality of death.
Too embarrassed to tell his wife about his conversation-stopping profession and admit that he has fallen in love with the townsfolk, Daigo vainly tries to keep his new life secret. As their relationship hangs in the balance, the big question is how will he react to surprising news she brings, as an encoffineer, as a husband, as a son and as a human being. It is Daigo’s turn to deal with life and death among the people who are dearest to him.
A story of love, of discovery, of revelation and of the transcending human spirit, Departures will linger in your heart and mind long after viewing.