Departures was a surprise winner of the 2009 Oscar, beating the favourites, The Class and Waltz with Bashir to the award. It takes us to contemporary, small-town Japan and to a world and culture very different from our own. Newly-married Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoko) is a young cellist in an orchestra in Tokyo which is suddenly disbanded because it is losing money. Disheartened at having to give up his dream of a career as a soloist, he decides to return to the small town in which he grew up, to the house his mother left him.
He needs a job and answers an advertisement in the newspaper. The job is not what he thought it would be and, out of embarrassment and shame, he lies to his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) about what the job actually entails. However, he slowly realises that what he is doing has a real value in helping families come to term with grief and, at the same time, he journeys into his own troubled past, finding eventual healing and reconciliation.
A tender, funny film, beautifully shot and composed, imbued with the values of Shintoism, as the living and the dead are everywhere juxtaposed. A word needs to be said about the music. Joe Hisaishi (pseudonym), a talented composer and violinist, wrote the music for the film, using Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Brahms’s Wiegenlied and Bach’s Ave Maria as bases for his own composition. A particularly poignant moment when Daigo finds a stone with special significance to him beside his old child-size cello is underscored by music based on Mahler’s The Wayfarer, a song of grief sung as the singer waits for his beloved.
Yôjirô Takita, was born in Takaoka, Toyama, Japan in 1955. He worked as an assistant director before making his first film in 1981. He became associated with a long-running series of ‘pink’ (adult) films. His first commercial film in 1986 was well-received at the New York Film Festival and he has become a prolific director working in many different genres, including the successful special-effects film Onmyoij (The Ying Yang Master, 2003) and an historical drama, When the Last Sword is Drawn, which won Best Film in the Japan Academy Awards, 2004.
Cast: Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo, Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Yôjirô Takita | Japan | 2008 | 130 minutes | 12a
Weighted vote 92.8%