Stress, Families and Faces

Death of a family member is a source of stress that most of us experience eventually.  Despite this, it is an uncommon subject for film.  A wonderful exception is Departures, an Oscar-winner from 2008 (Best Foreign Language film, Japanese title Okuribito), directed by Yojiro Takita.

The lead character is Daigo, a cellist whose career is unexpectedly derailed, leading him to return to his remote home town.  Looking for any job he can get, he answers a newspaper ad offering work with departures.  Thinking it might be a travel agency, he schedules an interview, only to learn there had been a misprint and he would be working with the Departed.  Specifically, the job was to prepare the deceased for placement in a coffin, a ritual that includes many steps designed to restore a life-like appearance.  Sounds terminally boring, doesn’t it?

Instead, the film is entertaining, humorous and full of interesting, well-acted characters plus a perspective on life that is witty and wise.  The number of thematic layers rivals a Shakespeare play and listing them would give away too much of the story but I will mention one.  When Daigo or his mentor restores the facial appearance of a body while the family of the deceased looks on, it often triggers a strong reaction in one or more of the relatives.  These are often unexpected by all concerned and not a simple reaction to the deceased as they were in life.  For entertainment, great music, enlarged cultural awareness, empathy skills and life perspective, this film is highly recommended.

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