Friday, June 5, 2009


Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of watching the film Departures at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Departures won this year's Academy Award for best foreign film. From Japan, the film tells the story of Masahiro, a young cellist with a Tokyo-based orchestra. When the orchestra is dissolved, he reluctantly gives up his dream of being a professional musician and returns to the small town in which he was raised. There, he stumbles into a job ceremonial preparing dead bodies for funerals. Masahiro finds he has a gift for the work and that he takes a comfort in being able to guide people peacefully and properly through their most difficult times. 

The film is at times hysterical, at times gut-wrenching, but it is always full of so much life and love and beauty. The set-up allows for several scenes in which we are given a window into people's lives at their darkest hours. And the director reminds us that some of us handle grief and sorrow by sinking to our lowest behavior, some of us handle it by rising to our best, and a rare special few among us, like Masahiro, are able to take those who are lost and aimless in the midst of grief and bring them back to themselves. 

I can't recommend this film enough. Even though its subject is death, it is as full of life as any film I have seen. It's a prime example of the strange dichotomy that sometimes the greatest beauty lies in the darkest corners of our existence. 


dethmama said...

Oh, this looks wonderful. I must see it!

Cara Schwartz said...

wow! this film looks beautiful and inspiring. I also loved how you described movement during grief and what a special space that coming back into alignment with self is.

Jessica Knapp said...

Hi Cara! Thanks for the comment. Great to see you here. This film is beautiful and inspiring. I felt a little cliche going to the film festival to see something that had already won an Academy Award, sort of like I should have picked something more obscure or off-beat ... but after the movie was over, I didn't care about anything like that. I was just so grateful for having seen it.

And yes, dethmama, definitely you must see it. Especially being a hospice nurse. I think you would so identify with walking into the scenes of total chaos, being part of people's most private, intimate moments.