Departures is a story of how people tend to find the real meaning of life only when they finally see the faces of death.
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Daigo Kobayashi lives a life of sophistication and glamor afforded to him by his job as a cellist for an orchestra based in Tokyo. His life completely changes when his orchestra gets disbanded and is forced to go back to his hometown in Yamagata with his wife, Mika. His late mother left him the house where he grew up in.
He feels guilty for not taking care of the house but it also houses some painful memory. His father left him when he was young. His only memory of his father is when they used to go to the river. His father told him that during the ancient times, people exchanged stones instead of words to communicate. A rough stone, for example, means they feel bad and a smooth one means they feel happy. He gave his father stones but his father never gave him any.
Knowing he needs to support Mika, he applies for a job without knowing what he was applying for. He later learns that he will be preparing the body of the dead before they are turned over to the living relatives.
When Mika learns of what he does, she insisted that he gets a new job because it is humiliating. As Daigo's life starts falling apart, he slowly starts to get a better understanding of what life is really about in the midst of the dead bodies he attends to everyday.
Death is considered a taboo subject in Japan. It is why I consider this to be one of the bravest movies ever made there. Even the director didn't expect that they will have some commercial success.
However, the movie used death to highlight the importance of living life with no hatred or pain because it only gets in the way of living. It is a familiar emotion. We all are guilty of never really realizing the value of life until death stares us in the face.
Unlike other Academy Award Winning Foreign Films, Departures is very subdued in almost every aspect of the film. The acting, music and even camera movement seem smooth and slow but it doesn't make the movie boring. It makes the movie thoughtful, like it's allowing you to breath and think before it moves on to the next point.
Director: Yōjirō Takita
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