Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Departures - Foreign Film

It won the 2009 American Academy Award for Best Foreign Film of the Year, and swept the Japan Academy Awards winning a slew of 10 additional oscars.

"Departures" is a film confronting the realities and rituals of death, and thereby ultimately embracing the beauty of life itself.

The story revolves around a 36 year old man who takes on a job as an encoffener after loosing his job as a celloist in the Tokyo Symphony. The story revolves around the conflict between the art of encoffening (that of providing the family of the deceased with an opportunity to remember their beloved in a beautiful state) and its impact on his marriage, family and community.

It's unique for film producers to take on such a stark topic for a film script, but the writers, producers and directors of this film unfolded dynamics of dying with such care and beauty that one leaves the film feeling more connected to and comforted by the inevitable reality of our eventually confrontation death in our lives. It's a light and tender movie, not one of haunting sorrow and sadness.

Americans strive to keep death and aging at arms length. Our markets are plagued with anti-aging products, new medicinal practices, and efforts to extend life for as long as possible, our western mindset leaving no room for the acceptance of death as a part of the natural course of life. It is a film produced in an East Asian country, I sensed, that would best be able to offer a cultural framwork that would allow others around the world to celebrate the art of both life and death. "Departures" and its Japanese cast and crew does this well.

The music score was beautiful, and particularly commendable given that the theme song had to be written with the cello as the main and dominant instrument. The cinematography was nice, but I think I've seen better > it wasn't the memorable and striking part of the film. It's really the script and the courage to bring this subject matter to the big screen that is most impressive.

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