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'Departure impressions'

Departures, All Lights Film Magazine, ALFM, All Lights Magazine

Cinema is a magnificent art of manifestation of  expectations of human soul. It constantly communicates and confronts with the spectator’s vision and wisdom to devise and advise a possible parallel view.

There are some films which are capable of keeping you in expedition for a long period through the outskirts of critical scrutiny in search for the ruins of thoughts left by them. ‘Departures’ the Japanese film by Yojiro Takita which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Oscars in 2009 is such a film.


Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist in Tokyo, loses his job when his orchestra is disbanded. He decides to move back to his hometown, with his wife Mika. Daigo's family used to run a small coffee shop over there. His father ran away with the waitress when Daigo was very young. His mother raised him by herself and died two years ago.

Departures, All Lights Film Magazine, ALFMDaigo finds an advertisement in the newspaper for "assisting departures". He goes to the interview, uncertain of the job's nature. He is hired on the spot after only one question ("Will you work hard?") and being handed an "advance" by his new boss. He discovers that the job involves preparing the dead. Daigo reluctantly accepts it and returns to his wife with Sukiyaki for a celebration, but he tells her that his job will be performing some sort of ceremony.

On his first day, he is made to act as a corpse in a DVD explaining the procedure. His first assignment is to clean, dress and apply cosmetics to the body of an aged woman who has died alone at home, remaining undiscovered for two weeks. He is beset with nausea, and humiliated when strangers on the bus detect an unsavory scent. He goes to an old public bath that he often went to during his childhood to wash off.

Daigo completes a number of assignments and experiences the gratitude of those left behind, gaining a sense of fulfillment. He began to think that death is not the "end" but the "gate to a next stage". But Mika finds the DVD and begs him to give up such a "disgusting profession." Daigo refuses to quit, so she leaves.

After a few months, Daigo's wife returns, announcing that she is pregnant. She seems to assume that he will get a different job.Afterwards, Daigo goes to the river and finds a small stone to give to Mika. He tells her about "stone-letters", a story told to him by his father - "A long time ago, before words were invented, people would give each other stones to express how they were feeling at that point. A smooth stone might mean that you are happy, while a rough one might mean you are worried about them." Many years ago, Daigo had stood on these same riverbanks with his father and exchanged stone-letters. Daigo's father had promised to send him one every year, though he never did.

Daigo’s father dies. Daigo and Mika go to see the body of his father, but Daigo finds that he cannot recognize him. As the funeral workers carelessly handle the body, he angrily stops them, and his wife explains that her husband prepares the dead for burial as a living, thereby tacitly admitting that she has come to accept his work. Daigo takes over the dressing of his father's body. Daigo finds the stone-letter he had given to his father when he was little, in his father's hands. He is at last able to recognize his father from his childhood memory. As he finishes the ceremony, Daigo gently presses the stone-letter to Mika's pregnant belly.


‘Departures’ is a different film by all means of film analysis. The theme of the film is disturbingly remarkable. The attempt to interpret the vibrant silence between death and life through simple and symbolic visual imagery makes the film exceptional. When we seriously get involved in to the film we could sense and make out that the film has got a philosophical aspect and appeal too. The connection and common ground all people share through loss and mourning is portrayed in a meticulously suggestive style. The film, mostly set in a wintry landscape surrounded by snow-capped mountains, is fabulously composed to provide strong visual support to the powerful script. The calm and emotive music composed by Joe Hisaishi plays a key role in making the theme of the film intensely penetrating.

Death, life, grief, loss, and loneliness everything comes out as a character in this film and at some point or the other everyone could find and relate themselves to it.

Starring : Masahiro Motoki, Ryōko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kimiko Yo, Takashi Sasano
Director : Yojiro Takita
Producer : Yasuhiro Mase

Cinematography :Takeshi Hamada
Script : Kundo Koyama 
Editor : Akimasa Kawashima
Music : Joe Hisaishi