(a “love letter” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
While watching the Japanese film, OKURIBITO (DEPARTURES) and long after the credits of the film rolled away, I could not get the film out of heart and mind, for it brought up for me one and ONLY person in my life who I care TREMENDOUSLY about and who has currently experienced a host of “departures.” Given this, I would like very much like to write this film review also as a “love letter” to this one and ONLY person in my life. That is to come after the “film formalities,” so please bear with me as I attempt something very unique and very special with this “BOTH” post.
As mentioned, OKURIBITO (DEPARTURES) is a Japanese film that is so sensitively and poetically directed by Yojiro Takita. The film won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as many Japanese Academy Awards. It deserved EVERY SINGLE Award, because the film is THAT wonderful. And speaking of “wonderful,” what a wonderful premise for this film: A young, married, unemployed, and a bit down-on-his-luck man named Daigo Kobayashi (played marvelously by Masahiro Motoki) answers a job ad in a newspaper and when he sees the word, “departure,” in the ad, he assumes it is a job with a traveling agency. Makes sense, right? Well, Daigo is shocked, to say the very least, when the man hiring for the position says the ad was a misprint and should have said, “departed,” instead of “departures.” Yeah, you guessed it, the job is a “funeral” job. After the wearing off of this initial shock, Daigo takes the job, though is very unsure what it will entail exactly. What it entails exactly is one “decorating” another one who has “departed” from this world to arrive in another “world.” Daigo’s “decorating” of “departed” one is so lovely, so respectfully, and so poetically filmed, that it all comes across as a “dance.” The “dance of death.” I know I’ve heard that before from a song or a book, but I just LOVE THAT! And I love that not because death is anything do dance about but to “decorate” another one not only in their death but also for the celebration of their life is something, in and of itself, particularly profound. Many of the scenes of this film are so poetic that the viewer is often “departed” way beyond the scope of the scenes into a “Heavenly” transport. The wonderful (and there’s that word again) cello music in the film only serves to “Heavenly Heighten” the scope of the scenes. And, without giving too much, when Daigo “decorates” his estranged and “departed” father at the end of the film, it will come very close to destroying you! You WILL weep!
Motoki in the lead role is BOTH endearing AND eavesdropping in this film. He endears us with his charm and his “good man” qualities while, at the very same time, lets us in on something we might have never considered. That consideration is that death is something to be celebrated and not something to be feared. I swear (well, I don’t like to swear), God and His Impeccable Timing has once again brought me a film right when I needed to see it. I have been dealing with death a lot of late with my dog, Blue, facing a quite possibly fatal heart condition. I have written about all of this considerably of late in the God Sonnets I write every morning. I ask the reader to please specifically read the God Sonnet, THE QUALITY OF LOVING (https://timothyjverret.blog/2021/08/09/the-quality-of-loving/), because God had me talk a whole lot about all of this in that sonnet, and all of this yet again is talked about a whole lot in this film. We really make ourselves completely and unnecessarily crazy when we fear death. Why? Because we all gotta go sometime, right? Your numbers up when your numbers up, right? Now, I don’t mean to make light of death. What I mean to make light of is this film respectfully” beautifies” our death for the innate beauty within death. It reminds us that the “true” beauty in death is when we can say we “truly” and “truthfully” (BOTH) lived (and, more than anything, loved). It’s like BOTH the God Sonnet AND this film were BOTH necessary to solidify the quality of living while loving or loving while living (BOTH) rather than the quantity of living while loving or loving while living (BOTH). If you hadn’t noticed already, God just ALWAYS reaches me with “BOTH.”
And speaking of “a whole lot about all of this,” this brings me to the “love letter” that is a “BOTH” part of this film review. The one and ONLY one person I alluded to earlier for this “love letter” film review is my therapist, Mark J., who as of late has had back-to-back “departures” of loved ones. As Mark puts it, this has all been “taxing” in his life, as I believe it would be for anyone. But I want Mark to know, and I think he already knows this, is that these “departures” have simply been God’s “Moving and Shaking (BOTH)” in “decorating” and sending Mark’s loved ones to Another and Newer and Higher Spiritual Plane. That’s why God had me view this film. God knew I needed to see it and bring this message to Mark as a “love letter” film review. All of this, of course, is not to say Mark should NOT be “taxed” and grieving the “departures” of these loved ones, because grief IS real and MUST be acknowledged, respected, and processed according to each individual’s own acknowledgment, respect, and process. I just know that I desire to share all of “this” with Mark and to “see” Mark right where he is in “this.” “This” is EXACTLY what Mark did for me. He “saw” me right where I was when in “this” (which, at the time, was a brutal “this”) when no one else could “see” me in this brutal “this.” Does that make sense? It might not make sense to you, but I know it makes PERFECT sense to me and Mark. “Gee, Timothy, he’s just your therapist. Should you even be talking like this about him? I mean, doesn’t that break a whole mess of boundaries and stuff with BOTH of you?” Once again, “this” might not make sense to the reader of this, but I know it makes PERFECT sense to me and Mark.
And, alas, the “love letter:”
“Dearest Mark: I thank God that God brought this film to me, so I could bring this film to you as a ‘love letter’ film review. Please know that I ‘see’ you right where you are in ‘this.’ I not only ‘see’ you in ‘this’ but also share you in ‘this.’ This film is one I hope you will watch, for I believe it will provide some essential healing that only God can provide you from this film’s viewing. I wish I could be the one ‘to wipe every tear from your eyes’ (Revelation 21:4), but I can’t. Well, at least I can’t do it like God can do it. But what I can do is be your ‘bucket’ for your tears, even if that means I have to keep emptying the bucket over and over again. And if and when you see this film, Mark, pay particularly close attention to Daigo ‘decorating’ his estranged and ‘departed’ father at the end of the film. Something (or SomeOne?) tells me this scene will touch and hold a special place in your heart for your own ‘departed’ father. It might even have something to do with that stone? From what you have told me, you have had some pretty profound ‘Jesus moments’ with the ‘departures’ of your loved ones. Some even saw (NOT in quotation marks) Jesus before the “departure,” and I honest-to-God believe they saw Jesus because YOU, Mark, see Jesus! Like Daigo in this film, you have ‘decorated’ your loved ones so that their ‘departure’ could be a whole lot less lonely. And I really don’t care much if others say you and I should not have this kind of shared intimacy. I know you know and I know I know and we BOTH know God knows why He brought us together. It’s for the soul connection we have down here as therapist and client, and it WILL be for the soul connection we WILL have Up There as Brothers in Christ after our own ‘departures,’ wherein we WILL be able to share all things even more intimately. I celebrate YOU, Mark, and I celebrate the ‘departures’ in your life and how you ‘decorated’ like Daigo their ‘departures’ so they could be a whole lot less lonely. Love and blessings ALWAYS, Mark, and ALWAYS acknowledged, respected, and processed grieving for you for the ‘departures‘ of your loved ones, Timothy.”
NOTE: What do you know? I was all prepared to order the DVD for OKURIBITO (DEPARTURES)(2008) from Amazon.com to give to Mark that actually came with a hefty price and an even heftier arrival time, but God “departed” something even better! I searched YouTube just to see if I could find an excerpt for the beautiful and haunting music of this film to post here, but I actually found the ENTIRETY of this film! Now, Mark, you can watch the film on YouTube YOURSELF and save ME a pretty penny and pretty long arrival time: