4.4 20
Director: Yojiro Takita

Cast: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki

Director Yojiro Takita and writer Kundo Koyama examine the rituals surrounding death in Japan with this tale of an out-of-work cellist who accepts a job as a "Nokanashi" or "encoffineer" (the Japanese equivalent of an undertaker) in order to provide for himself and his young wife. Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro


Director Yojiro Takita and writer Kundo Koyama examine the rituals surrounding death in Japan with this tale of an out-of-work cellist who accepts a job as a "Nokanashi" or "encoffineer" (the Japanese equivalent of an undertaker) in order to provide for himself and his young wife. Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) is a talented musician, but when his orchestra is abruptly disbanded, he suddenly finds himself without a source of steady income. Making the decision to move back to his small hometown, Daigo answers a classified ad for a company called "Departures," mistakenly assuming that he will be working for a travel agency. Upon discovering that he will actually be preparing the bodies of the recently deceased for their trip to the afterlife, Daigo accepts the position as gatekeeper between life and death and gradually gains a greater appreciation for life. But while Daigo's wife and friends universally despise his new line of work, he takes a great amount of pride in the fact that he is helping to ensure that the dead receive a proper send-off from this state of being.

Editorial Reviews

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When Yojiro Takita's Departures won the 2008 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, it was quite the underdog performance. First off, Departures upset the presumptive favorite, Israel's Waltz with Bashir. But perhaps more surprising, given the rich history of Japanese cinema, it also became the country's first victorious submission since the category opened to multiple entrants in 1956. (Foreign language achievement had previously been recognized only by honorary Oscars.) Akira Kurosawa brought home the Oscar in 1975 for Dersu Uzala, but not to Japan -- the submitting country was the Soviet Union in that case. The film that finally broke through contains numerous Oscar-worthy themes -- among them coping with death, estrangement from family, and spiritual renewal -- all leavened by a perfectly toned humor that keeps the proceedings from becoming morose. However, a not-quite-dead octopus starts things off on quite a different note. Daigo (Masahiro Motoki), a hopeful cellist, and Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), his devoted wife, are supposed to be celebrating Daigo's position in the local orchestra. Not only is their prospective dinner still twitching, but Daigo tells Mika the news that his orchestra has suddenly folded -- and that his cello cost 18 times more than she'd thought. Returning the octopus to the water only to watch it float there limply, the couple leaves expensive Tokyo for the slower pace of Daigo's hometown with about as much enthusiasm. A new line of work ends up easier to come by than Daigo could have imagined, but not without a price -- he has unwittingly stumbled into work at the local mortuary. Before long, he's being paged in the middle of the night to collect dead bodies, and wearing away at Mika's patience. But while she finds his work repulsive and dishonorable, Daigo is rejuvenated by the ancient funeral rituals he's learning, designed to send the departed off to the afterworld in peace and harmony. Immersed in these episodes of overpowering loss, family strife, and sometimes transcendent gratitude, Daigo gains a new perspective on his own unresolved family life. Takita's film is bursting with tiny pleasures, but none are more emblematic of his approach than the numerous minutes spent on preparing these bodies for their departure. This calm procedure of wrapping, folding, cleansing, perfuming, disrobing, re-robing, and purifying -- all chastely conducted in front of grieving family members -- is the film's fascinating recurring centerpiece, both fastidious to the point of tediousness and lovingly graceful. Takita is actively urging his viewers to slow down and absorb the importance of details, but his triumphant film cannot be reduced to one simple message. He's gotten terrific performances from his leads -- which also include Daigo's immediate co-workers (Tsutomu Yamazaki and Kimiko Yo) -- and uses them to create a film of lyrical beauty, in which a variety of poignant departures draw out the characters' understanding of the fragility of life and of their relationships. Takeshi Hamada's gorgeous camerawork brings this small, snowy town to life, even as it is the focal point for so much death. With Daigo's cello providing the soundtrack, Departures invites us to contemplate the intertwining of perceived opposites: life and death, ancient and modern, parent and child. No American film body need certify its pedigree, but an Oscar won't hurt in bringing this consummately Japanese experience to a wider audience.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Koch Vision

Special Features

Interview with director Yojiro Takita

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Masahiro Motoki Daigo Kobayashi
Ryoko Hirosue Mika Kobayashi
Tsutomu Yamazaki Ikuei Sasaki
Kimiko Yo Kamimura Yuriko
Takashi Sasano Shokichi Hirata
Kazuko Yoshiyuki Tsuyako Yamashita
Tetta Sugimoto Yamashita
Toru Minegishi Actor
Tatsuo Yamada Actor
Yukiko Tachibana Actor

Technical Credits
Yojiro Takita Director
Takeshi Hamada Cinematographer
Joe Hisaishi Score Composer
Akimasa Kawashima Editor
Kundo Koyama Screenwriter
Yasuhiro Mase Executive Producer
Toshiaki Nakazawa Producer
Fumio Ogawa Production Designer
Toshihisa Watai Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Departures
1. In Mourining [7:41]
2. Departures [8:56]
3. Harmony [1:43]
4. NK Agent [9:22]
5. Minatoza Theater [1:24]
6. Casketing Procedure [8:01]
7. Thsurunoyu Public Bath [6:08]
8. Trial [8:09]
9. Favorite Lipstick [10:12]
10. A Drink [8:16]
11. Acting Job [14:00]
12. A Child's Instrument [16:21]
13. We'll Meet Again [6:20]
14. Stone Letter [8:35]
15. Personal Belongings [10:56]
16. End Credits [4:19]


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Departures 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
EthanNielson More than 1 year ago
While I was a Tour Guide At Universal Studios in the '70s, Lew Wasserman himself (Chairman of MCA/Universal at the time), acknowledged me to be the most knowledgable guide in the history of the tour. So it is with a certain depth of knowledge that I say this is the best film I've seen in the last ten years. It's a rather unfortunate statement to say that I no longer believe a film of this nature could be made in this country (USA), or at least very rarely so (BELLA being a rare exception). DEPARTURES is a film of such sensitivity and beauty and embodies what is truly best about the human condition. In a world that seems to truly embody what is most detrimental about our surroundings this film is like being in a desert and finding an extraordinary oasis. Words will simply not express how great a piece of filmmaking that this film embodies. Though I see between 3 to 5 films a week, I nearly missed this one, but when it was awarded the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film I took notice. Ethan Nielson/Glendora, Calif. USA
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
DEPARTURES (aka OKURIBITO) is an experience film, one of those graceful creations of cinema that finds the balance between comedy and drama, sensitive and sentimental, and is embellished by a wondrous musical score and glowing cinematography. Running time is in excess of two hours, but likely most viewers would elect to rewind and watch it again, so touching and vital is this story. Daigo Kobayashi (the enormously gifted Masahiro Motoki) was raised by his mother when his father for some reason left his family when Daigo was only six years old: his last memory of his father is a quiet scene by the ocean when the child and the father exchange found rocks. Daigo was encouraged by his parents to learn to play the cello so that he could amount to something special as a man. Things happen: Daigo goes off to study cello, his mother dies and he doesn't attend the funeral, he marries Mike (Ryoko Hirosue), and spends all their money on a prime cello to gain admission to the major orchestra in the city. The orchestra plays to near empty houses and is finally disbanded. Daigo is without an income, sells his prize cello, and with Mika's blessing, returns to his hometown to live in the home of his childhood. He answers an ad for work, an ad that uses the word 'Departures' making Daigo think this is a travel agency. When Daigo 'interviews' with the owner (Tsutomu Yamazaki) he discovers that the job in one called 'encoffinment' (a Japanese ceremonial procedure of preparing, dressing & praying for the corpse before putting them in the coffin). At first repulsed by the job, Daigo gradually discovers the importance of paying final respects to the dead and preparing them for the life ahead, and his experiences with the new found beauty of encoffinment ties in with memories of his family, recalls his estrangement from his father, and reunites him with old dear friends who run a bath house, etc. Mika is spared the truth about her husband's new job, and when she discovers the truth, Mika leaves Daigo who by now is enchanted with his position. Many experiences follow as Daigo encoffins all manner of people: there are some ugly scenes and some very humorous scenes depicting the variety of 'calls' Daigo gets. How the story winds down is not necessarily difficult to discern, but the manner in which the film ends is a work of great simplicity and beauty. Daigo's dealing with departures allows him to find his own arrivals. Writer Kundo Takita and director Yôjirô Takita well deserve all the awards lavished on this perfect little film. But much of the success of this story about another way to view death is the astonishingly multifaceted performance by Masahiro Motoki, a beautiful man and an equally beautiful actor. This is a film to watch repeatedly and definitely one to add to the personal library of DVDs. Grady Harp
liveintheangels More than 1 year ago
Departures was magically both very humorous and powerfully moving..having lost my father 15 years ago was particularly touching to see how death is made less frightening, less dark and less hidden as depicted in this wonderful film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Departures" is full of surprises from beginning to end. It touched me on many levels. Although not sexy, fast paced or exciting, as more popular films are, the film more than makes up for this in other ways. The main characters experience dramatic changes that improve the quality of their lives and relationships. I am a movie buff, yet this is the first time I am putting my endorsement in writing. Those looking for something other than a quick fix, and something outside the box, this movie is a must!
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dlphillips8 More than 1 year ago
Normally I avoid sub-titles, but in this case I feel it added to the experience. Although at times macab, the movie evoked a full range of emotions, even laughter. The most compelling thing for me was being able to feel what the main character experienced while awakening to an understanding of the value of life, and the eternal nature of what we each leave when we depart. This movie must be given your full attention, any distractions and the experience will be lost. The music was masterful, the dialog was slow but thoughtful; tapping the emotions fully. This is not a movie, but an event. By nature we've become uncomfortable with the process and finality of death, but this movie broadens the mind to accept the body as a gift, and to celebrate it while holding onto the love we feel for the person who inhabited it! Departures created a visual for what I hope to be able to express- love, gratitude and happiness for the ones I'll say goodbye to through death.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I totally enjoyed this movie. I heard about this movie and I now know why it had such great reviews. I'm glad I finally purchased the DVD.
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