Sunday 4 March 2012

The hills are alive with the sound of pretentiousness

Departures (film)
It's the Japanese film that won the Oscar for best foreign language film of 2008. It shouldn’t have. Departures is a good film, I liked it, but I find it difficult to believe it best. I should watch The Baader Meinhof Complex whilst it’s still on iPlayer so I can rate one of the competition. Daigo Kobayashi is a cello player who through circumstance becomes a mortician. In a country where death is the subject of much ceremony - yet is also taboo - Departures offers another view on a culture so different to our own. I’m all for difference, and on those universal themes of sorrow and loss it was very moving, in places, but I have some reservations.

To start, it’s a film with two endings; there’s a really good end to this film - about 20 minutes before the actual end to this film. There’s the lovely conclusion (that should have been) when the cute wife, who to that point hasn’t been too supportive of his new career, looks lovingly at her husband whilst he handles another customer. And then, unfortunately, there’s the mistaken need to tidy up any loose ends - the whole back story of his father. And then there’s the cello, oh God...

Daigo is a cello player, and in common with other cello players he likes to drive into the middle of nowhere and position himself on a small grassy ridge with snow-covered mountains in the background. If you’ve seen the poster and want to know what it has to do with the film, let me answer that one for you - absolutely nothing. This isn’t a film about a cello player - that’s the ‘cultured man in culture clash’ device - it’s a film about a man who handles dead bodies; though to be fair, showing a dead body in front of a mountain backdrop might have been more difficult to sell. There’s a few of these cello-playing intervals too; some featuring the player himself, some with swans or other wildlife. Oh and while I think about it, there’s a bit about some fish who “swim upstream only to die”. As luck would have it there happens to be an old man on hand to utter some wise words underscoring the message of the film, though I’m damned if I can remember what they were.


  1. "...though to be fair, showing a dead body in front of a mountain backdrop might have been more difficult to sell."
    ha ha ha
    You're VERY fair.