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Film Review: Okuribito or Departures

Essay by   •  June 21, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  876 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,403 Views

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Film Review: Okuribito or Departures

The movie Departures, set in Japan, is a beautiful reflection on life, death, family, and finding your calling. This film follows a man named Daigo, a freshly unemployed, young cellist, from Tokyo back to his home town Yamagata, with his wife Mika, to live in his childhood home that was left to him by his mother. This brings up unsettling emotions about his father who left him and his mother when he was six years old.

Needing a new job, Daigo is excited to notice a help wanted ad mentioning departures which he and his wife assume means working as a tour guide or travel agent. He goes to an interview with the owner of the company, Sasaki who immediately hires Daigo and offers a great sum of money as he's salary. He then learns that there was a misprint in the ad and the word "departures" was actually suppose to say "the departed." The job involved working with the dead and preparing them for burial. Though he is very perturbed with the idea of being around dead bodies, he is in need of a job and is especially persuaded by Sasaki and the large salary that he offered.

So embarrassed and troubled by he's new job, Daigo decides to not let Mika and the people around him know exactly what it is that he does. As Daigo starts to go on more and more jobs with his boss Sasaki, he begins to realize that there is a true art form in preparing the bodies of the recently deceased for their trip to the afterlife. He also realizes the emotional satisfaction it brings to the families. Daigo gradually gains a greater appreciation for life. Mika finally finds out about the job and is disgusted because it is seen as being "dirty" and not a suitable job in the Japanese culture. But Daigo refuses to give up his passion of helping to ensure that the dead receive a proper send off from this state of being.

I feel this movie was a fascinating way to learn about this aspect of the Japanese culture. It was such a moving and beautiful exploration of the role that death plays in life and the importance of those whose job it is to deal with the dead on our behalf. The profession that is shown in this film is called nokan or casketing, which means one who prepares the dead for burial. Casketing involves a ceremonial washing of the body and making up of the face. In the U.S. this is something that is done behind closed doors where in Japan this act is done in front of the mourners as part of the funeral process.

There is one part in the movie where Daigo and Sasaki arrive to the job five minutes late and the husband of the deceased women is extremely infuriated and expresses this by degrading the job they do. Sasaki as such elegance in the way he performs his task, making sure everything is done perfectly. As he was making up the women's face he asks for her favorite lipstick so that he may put it on her. After they put her in

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