Monday, August 10, 2009


Yesterday Tetsu and I went to the movies and saw Departures. I really enjoyed this movie and would even like to see it again. It provided lots to think about how I view death and burial customs etc.

Tetsu did not want to see this movie.

"I've seen it all Tanya. I WORK in a convalescent home. I speak with the funeral directors and make the arrangements. Sometimes there is no family present and I am the only one there at the "departure". Why would I want to go see a movie about how people are buried/cremated?"

Well, the movie won awards and I've heard very good things about it. It was a Japanese movie (which overall Tetsu prefers... no subtitles). I like the actors. We missed it in the theaters but Leiya let me know there was a way to see it over the Internet but it involved lots of interruptions and grainy photography. Tetsu did sit for the first 10 minutes and just that caught his fancy and he declared that he might be willing to go see it afterall. Yesterday it was shown at a charity event and that's why we were able to go.

Despite the topic, Departures is not morbid nor depressing. There are quite a few light moments and there is beauty in every scene. The story is about a cellist turned mortician (I guess that's the only word for him), and the background cello music is haunting throughout the movie.

Because death is the theme, there were many scenes of the families' grief and how they coped with the last couple hours. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I cried. There was a flowing preciseness in the mortician's rituals that reminded me of the exquisitely beautiful Japanese tea ceremony and so yes, the movie was surprisingly beautiful.

On a personal front, I was reminded that my own family doesn't think much of funerals and rites and it made me question a bit my attitude of "when you are gone, you are gone and the rituals are just part of the business." Of course Tetsu pointed out that I was right in a way, and that many funeral personnel that he comes in contact with don't take the care that the Departures movie depict.

Tetsu and I lived for a couple of years near the town where Departures was filmed and we have memories of the scenery and the dialect of the area. That alone made the movie enjoyable for us but if you are interested in Japanese customs and want to experience the nuances of Japanese humor and expressions of beauty, you might find this film worth going to.

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