Departures (2008), Oscar-winning film
It's strangely ironic. That movie is about the evils of human nature in a world without God, while Departures is about coping with one of the most basic aspects of human nature: Our need to grieve for the dearly departed, regardless of religion or creed (or the lack of it).
At one point in the movie, the main character — former cellist Daigo Kobayashi — asked his elderly boss and his secretary what music they would like to hear him perform for their impromptu Christmas Eve dinner, and whether they have any religious sensibilities he should be aware of, lest he offended them.
His boss good-naturedly replied: "None! Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, whatever. We'll take them (the deceased) all!"
I lost count of how many times I wept while watching this movie, and judging from the quiet sniffing I heard all around me in the cinema, I wasn't alone. Preparing the dead for their next journey is a highly cathartic experience, done more for the sake of the living rather than for the deceased, who aren't really in a position to care any more, anyway.
In a way, Departures is a somewhat melodramatic film bordering on sappy sentimentality. But then again, it's also a Japanese film, and few people do sentimentality as sensitively — or as touchingly — as the Japanese.
The movie deals with other secondary issues too, such as the prejudice against people in the funeral profession, inter-generational tensions between parents and children, and the typical Japanese penchant for romanticising the heartfelt simplicity of rural life.
But the star of the show, Masahiro Motoki, carries the movie splendidly, together with his superb supporting cast that notably includes Ryoko Hirosue, Japan's favourite doe-eyed cutie. Sigh, I used to have a crush on her long ago, back when she debuted in Beach Boys (I guess every guy my age would have, back then :p). She's still very beautiful, and remains a little teeny-bopper despite being 29 years old.
Go watch this movie if you can, especially if you've lost people dear to you. Because then, its simple message would hit so much harder: We all die, and it's hard to be left behind but, nonetheless, the memories and gratitude will last forever.
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