Wednesday, 2 December 2009


Daigo, a skilled cellist, is left jobless after the orchestra which he has just begun performing with disbands. After selling off his brand new cello, Daigo seeks employment elsewhere, arranging an interview with what he believes to be a travel agency (the word ‘departures’ features in the company’s advert). Before long, it becomes clear that this new job opportunity will require him to ceremonially prepare the dead, or the ‘departed’, before they are placed in the coffin. Given the exceptional pay for the job, Daigo accepts, but after a humiliating first day, he decides not to explain the job to his wife Mika, instead allowing her to believe he is a wedding planner. As the tasks become more emotionally demanding, so the tensions in his marriage worsen. Soon, it is boiled down to a choice between his work and his family, a decision which puts him in a quandary as he begins to feel a connection with his clients.

Though its approach to death is typically Oriental, the film has a particularly European feel. Daigo, along with most non-Eastern viewers, essentially begins the film as an outside observer to these curious funeral ceremonies, and his only access to this part of his culture is handling corpses, an emotionally damaging experience which he understandably takes a while to acclimatise to. This is not to say that the film is entirely morbid – there are many moments of gentle humour, and one comes away from the film enlightened and revitalised rather than depressed.

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