Friday, December 09, 2016

Review of 'Departures'

Nearly didn't go out to watch this one - cold, late, and so on. Very glad I did - very moving, but odd and thought-provoking all at the same time.

A Japanese cellist hears that his orchestra has folded, and moves back to his old home town with his young wife. He scans the papers for jobs, goes to what he thinks is a travel company (it's called 'Departures') and ends up taking a job as a...well, not exactly an undertaker, someone who prepares bodies for funerals. In the Jewish community this is a job done by a voluntary group, in Japan it seems like it's a profession - and one with pariah status, because though the activity is appreciated, the role seems to be despised. His old acquaintances tell him the job demeans him and he should get a proper job. His wife is horrified when she finds out - somehow he's managed not to tell her - and leaves him.

It's an amazing film, about death and loss and mourning. It reminded me all over again how aesthetic everything in Japan seems to be - the rituals associated with preparing the body, which are done with the family present, and very beautiful and dignified. It also made me think about how different are the ways of death across cultures - surely an argument against the idea that there is an unchanging human nature, since the fact of death is common to all cultures, but the way of dealing with it is so different. The Japanese seem to really wallow in the sorrow.

Watched on a cinema screen at Lansdown Film Club.

No comments: