Departures, and arrivals

Go and see Departures. At once. Or maybe wait until tomorrow when it comes to Cornerhouse.

This Japanese film, which basically is two hours of someone preparing dead bodies for putting in their coffins, is one of the most wonderful and uplifting films you’ll see in a long time.

Masahiro Matoki and Ryoko Hirosue in Departures

Daigo is a cellist who is made redundant, and who accidentally ends up in this job of ‘encoffineer’. It used to be the families who prepared their dead for the funeral, but this is now delegated to paid specialists by the undertakers. Like so many Japanese rituals, there is a lot to prepare, and it is both tender and beautiful.

Most people, including Daigo’s wife, think it’s a dirty job, but by the time he’s got used to it, Daigo no longer wants to give it up. There is a certain predictability to the plot, but that’s almost necessary. You can see things coming, but that does not detract from how you feel.

Masahiro Matoki and Tsutomu Yamazaki in Departures

It’s interesting to see how much we have in common with everyday Japanese life, apart from the bowing and all that kneeling. (What do people with bad knees in Japan do?) They have embraced western words for some things, like Christmas and cello. And I could have sworn someone mentioned proposals.

The food. Not at all vegetarian. ‘Freshly killed this morning, and you can eat it raw.’ Well, you can if you haven’t been carrying decomposing old ladies around, perhaps.

Despite the food, it’s the sweetest film. Go and see it without delay.


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