Giving Proper Respect to the Dead
Release Date: May 29, 2009
Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko
Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki,
Kimiki Yo, Takashi Sasano,
Kazuko Yoshiyuki, and Tetta
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 131 minutes
Distributor: Regent Releasing
Director: Yojiro Takita
Executive Producer: Yasuhiro Mase
Producer: Toshiaki Nakazawa
Writer: Kundo Koyama
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The story involves a young married Japanese cellist, Daigo Kobayashi, who loses his job at a philharmonic orchestra when it folds. Daigo decides to quit music and get a regular job back in his hometown. He and his pretty wife, Mika, are pleased when he seems to have found a job at a travel agency. When he shows up, however, he learns that the job is for a Japanese funeral home that involves the ceremonial preparation and washing of dead people at funerals. The ad said Departures, but it really meant The Departed.
At first, Daigo is repulsed by this job, but then he sees how lovingly, gracefully and tastefully the funeral director prepares the bodies at the funerals for burial. And, he sees the overwhelming gratitude that the mourners feel for how respectfully their loved ones are handled.
Despite this, Daigo knows that his wife, Mika, will be ashamed of the kind of work he is doing. When Mika finds out, she angrily returns to her family in Tokyo, but curiosity gets the better of her. She attends one of his funeral services, and is incredibly moved by the beautiful way in which her husband does his job, especially how deeply it ministers to the grief of the thankful mourners. Later, she helps him face a personal dilemma when he learns of a family tragedy. The entire experience brings Daigo and Mika closer together at a crucial moment in their lives, the coming arrival of their first child.
Words cannot express how moving and ultimately inspiring this sublime little movie from Japan is. Scene after scene offers something profound, provocative, joyful, or heart-wrenching, sometimes all together. The movie also contains some overtly positive Christian content, especially in a brief scene that takes place at a Christian funeral and during the playing of “Ave Maria.”
There are some references to Buddhism, however, and some references to death that require caution. There is also one scene where the protagonist finds out a dead body was a cross-dressing young man. The movie’s main message, however, is that, whether the loved one is Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, atheist, or whatever, whether they treated you kindly or unkindly, and whatever their ultimate destination in the afterlife, whether Heaven or Hell, there is an essential human dignity, a transcendent spark from the Divine, that deserves our full respect and love.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . . If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. . . . But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” – Jesus Christ, Luke 6:27-35.
“Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – God, Deut. 10:19
DEPARTURES is an exquisite, extraordinary, redemptive masterpiece of powerful emotions. It takes a morbid subject and turns it into an inspiring cinematic triumph of sublime, profound beauty. The movie contains a mixture of religious references, including overt Christian ones, but its main message is that there is an essential human dignity, a transcendent spark from the Divine, that deserves our respect and love.