Two Japanese movies watched a week apart, and both have converted me or should I say I have reverted back to being a fan of Japanese movies. And between the two movies, Okuribito or Departures was nominated and has rightfully won the best foreign movie award in the recent Oscars. The movie has all that you would want in a great production, a simple yet powerful plot, a director with an eye for cinematography who is also one great storyteller, a talented crew of actors and a winning (music)score. But what truly touches me was how when all these elements were to come together to light a spark in one’s heart that allows the flame of humanity and love to burn ceaselessly long after the movie has ended.
Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki)was a devoted cellist of a disbanded orchestra. He then decided to sell his cello and move back to his hometown with his wife Mika, played by Ryoko Hirosue of The Beach Boys fame. And thinking that a job he found on the papers revolves around travelling and tour guiding, he discovered to his horror that he is indeed to be a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. Though initially despised by many and even he himself finds it a rather revolting vocation, he soon realises his aptitude towards the profession and the significance of the job in itself and in his self-discovery.
The movie shows no deliberate attempt to make one cry, but your tears will flow at the dignity and reverence of how the rites are carried out, and how love is expressed with no verbal transmission but through a stone letter held tightly in a dead man’s hand. I found myself searching through the memories of my experience with death and dismissal of some people I have loved and still do ache at the thought of them. The heartache is vivid but how grateful am I to be feeling so much love for them even till now and am blessed to be capable of this much love. And Daigo’s playing of his childhood cello, the deep and slightly husky voice of a cello that tells a poignant tale lingers on in my mind. In addition, the typical Japanese sense of humor can be quite addictive. It has effortlessly drawn laughter in the audience by associating the living with eating. And thus, you will see the characters stuffing themselves with food every time they went through the death ritual, for as the character Ikuei Sasaki once said, the living will feed on the dead, so one has better to eat and be alive. And alas, my passion for classics is rekindled after this one show and I shall devour all that comes my way regardless of any unforseen schedules.