Surely by now you have probably heard of some amazing Japanese movie that swept up this year’s Best Foreign Film of the Year at the Academy Awards. You haven’t?! NO WORRIES! That’s what I’m here for! LOL
The movie is called Okuribito おくりびと, or more commonly known as Departures in the Western markets. I just watched it this week and decided it was DEFINITELY worth a post! Breathtaking would be an appropriate word. It’s also completely fresh. At first I was a little worried that it might be a bit slow and boring at parts (I find that jmovies are sometimes a hit or miss OR you need to be fully charged prior to watching it) but it wasn’t at all!! The story is a little odd but don’t be scared by it. Give it a go. It’s DEFINITELY worth checking out!!!
Japanese official website + Japanese trailer
The English version of the trailer is available here but I think the Japanese one presents a much more accurate picture of the movie.
Daigo (Motoki Masahiro) is a professional cellist in a small orchestra but just as he thought life was going well, he is told the group is disbanded. Along with his wife, he returns to his hometown in Yamagata and starts looking for a job. He makes way to NK Agent, a travel agency he guesses, as the ad had described itself as dealing with ‘departures’. No experience required. Good pay and short hours? Yep – sounds good.
LOL But what is this NK Agent? It’s actually a company that provides the services of encoffining (i.e. preparing the dead to be placed in their casket). With a bit of push and shove and the need for money – he gives it a go. Surprisingly, the first 30 -40 minutes of the movie is actually quite lighthearted!!? His first task to be a “model”, the first time he sees a dead body etc. Motoki does an amazing job. The pace of the movie is great. There were no moments of boredom. However, halfway through, the level of emotions really get cranking. The most moving part must be when he realises the ‘art of encoffining’ – how sacred the process is and how much it means for the family. All that and throw in Joe Hisaishi’s magic and you’ve CLEARLY got a WINNER!! The cello playing and music honestly opened up everyone’s tear ducts. I could hear sniffling and poor attempts to hide the crying in the cinema. *Definitely need to get the OST!!*
Just when Daigo is beginning to appreciate the work, the social perception of the job hits him. His friends and wife (Ryoko Hirosue) are disgusted by his choice of work. “Find yourself a proper job…You are unclean.” I was a bit surprised by this response. How is it unclean? I would never be disgusted by a person who did this for a living. I might be scared but not disgusted or think it’s shameful. Needless to say, he eventually proves them wrong.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Despite the somewhat depressing theme, it is actually not a dark film at all. Yes, you will probably cry, but it will be because you are so moved by Daigo and his mentor’s work. WATCH THIS. PLEASE. It is an amazing piece of work. Just make sure you have some tissues nearby. =]