おくりびと Okuribito (Departures)

3/16/2011




Recently, I have started spending my spare time ( spells ALL THE TIME) watching films. Since, I am not doing anything productive and I just discovered the wonders of torrent, I decided to download (yes, I know it's illegal, sue me) films to make myself ignorant eyes/mind cultured in a way. The first film that came to mind was a Japanese film that my student recommended to me. It won the 2009 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. It was well worth it, probably one of the best films I have ever seen.




t starts with the story of a cello player whose orchestra got disbanded because of declining viewers/show-goers. Left with a huge debt for buying his cello, he decides to sell it, move to his hometown and start anew. His wife, who was a computer programmer, passively agrees with the decision in a move to "support" him. Back in his hometown, Daigo (the protagonist of the film) started scanning some classified ads in an attempt to find a new job. He found a job advertisement that said "Assisting people in their departures" and thought that it was a job posting for a travel agency.Desperate for work, he decided to go to the agency for an interview and was unceremoniously hired by the owner after asking him just one question " Will you work hard?" Daigo was very surprised that he was immediately hired and his shock grew more when the owner told him that he will earn 500,000 yen a month. Wondering about the true nature of the job, he asked the owner what the job description really was (suspicious as well, seeing that the office has a display of several coffins in a corner ). The owner answered that the agency dealt with the "departed" by conducting the encoffining ceremony for the funeral. Troubled by the job description, Daigo insisted that the job advertisement said it was about "departures" and the owner revealed that there was just a mistranslation in the job description. Hesitant at first but left with no choice, Daigo accepted the job and went home to find a surprised Mika (his wife) who asked him if he got the job. When Mika asked Daigo about what the job was, Daigo answered it was just for "ceremonies".

Daigo's first assignment is to pose as a corpse for a "company DVD" which is basically a guide to encoffinment. This DVD serves as a pivotal point in the story when Mika finds this object in Daigo's desk and leaves him because he refused to leave his job. Words began to spread about Daigo's job and people started to treat him as a pariah since most of the townsmen shun the topic of death. This view is further reinforced in a scene where he encountered his childhood friend who advised him to "find a decent job".


Mika returned to him announcing that she is pregnant and insisted that it should be a motivation for him to find a proper job. Daigo answered back but was cut off when someone called him to tell that the owner of the bath house where he used to go (the mother of that same childhood friend he met earlier) died and that he had to go to perform the encoffining ceremony. He obliged, bringing Mika with him. He lovingly performed the ceremony, even donning the old woman her favorite scarf before putting her in the coffin. After the burial, Mika and most of Daigo's close friends (including his childhood friend) began to understand his job and started to not view it innocuously.




The climax of the film happened when someone informed Mika about Daigo's father's death. Daigo was then left with a choice of whether to go and see his father's corpse or not, while still clutching on the grudge he felt for his father for leaving him when he was young. The story ends with Daigo coming to terms with himself and deciding to perform the encoffining ceremony. Daigo started to cry when he finds out that before his death, his father was clutching the stone that he gave him when he was little, proving that his father never stopped thinking about him even before death.

What I loved about the film: I think the main attraction of the film is the subtle realism that is embedded in the solid story that tells us about the inevitable end that each of us must have to face. Most of us, not only the Japanese society, find death as a taboo. I, for one, am scared to touch a dead person, associating them with "dirt" and "sickness". The film shows us a new perspective on death, how beautiful it can be and how goodbye, painful as it may be, is just the beginning of a whole new adventure in the "other side".

Each scene was poignantly made and one cannot help but shed tears as you watch each twist unfold while realizing how brittle our existence is. The music perfectly complements the story, causing us more unimaginable sadness which leaves us helplessly bawling even hours after the film. Joe Hisaishi proves once again why he is master of music as the main theme of the movie conveys to the viewers all of the messages that were left unsaid by the characters.


One of the interesting thing about the film is how it ironically poses thecharacter in a situation where he makes a living out of the dead. This paradox was tackled even deeply in the film with the death of the bathhouse owner and the scene where the cremator, who was her friend, admits how remarkable it is that he serves as the guard of the gateways between two worlds: the dead and the living. Funnily enough, it presents to us the harsh reality that we have known for so long and yet refuse to accept : WE ARE ALL BORN TO DIE. We have no choice but to welcome death in our arms and stop trying to evade it because whatever we do, it is something we cannot really escape. People die but we have to move on. (To be continued)

Want to hear the emotionally captivating them of Okuribito? Click here.
For more info about the film, click here.
For the trailer, click here.

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