Saturday, July 2, 2011


Eiga Sai 2011
13th Japan Film Festival
Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex

This is a repost of my review of "Departures" which is included in the roster of films showing at the ongoing Japan Film Festival at the Shang Cineplex.

When you hear the word "Departures", you automatically think about travel and airport terminals. So you might be surprised that in the film, it refers to a different type of flight - the one to the great beyond.

Daigo, a cellist is suddenly jobless after the orchestra was disbanded. He decides to go back to his hometown with his wife and start anew. He answers an ad thinking that it was a travel agency. Much to his chagrin and utter surprise, the task involves the cleansing and dressing of dead bodies before they are put in caskets. Not exactly an embalmer but an encoffiner.

The film beautifully presents this ancient Japanese tradition of casketing. It is a delicate and highly respectful ritual as the family of the deceased are present in the room during the entire process.

Several side plots of human drama prevails. Human interest stories about the life of the deceased are recounted by their relatives. It adds a certain poignancy to an otherwise sad occasion. A quirky sense of humor also sustains this film. Not that death is a laughing matter but mostly it is the way that Daigo slowly but surely adapts to his very strange occupation.

The film also emphasizes on the importance and value of human relationships. It is especially endearing to watch the bond that develops between Daigo and his mentor who is among a rare breed of encoffiners who still perform this ancient rite with unequaled passion. It is also interesting to witness the relationship between Daigo and his wife. How she reacts when she finds out what his job entails.

The movie also treats the tricky subject of death with much respect. Taking great lengths to explain that the spirit of the deceased lives on through the memories (good and bad) that s/he built during his/her existence.

Although a bit long with certain scenes of extreme sappiness which seem out of place, I highly recommend "Departures". It is definitely a must see!

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