Susanka on “Departures”

I was pretty swamped this past week, so I missed Joseph Susanka’s Patheos column on Yojiro Takita’s Oscar-winning 2008 film, Departures. If you haven’t seen the movie, Joseph’s column will make you regret your sad mistake.

It tells the story of young Daigo Kobayashi, an aspiring concert cellist, who finds himself forced to return to his birthplace when the mid-level orchestra which has employed him is dissolved. Accompanied by his wife, Daigo reluctantly searches for work, all too aware that his musical skill is insufficient for regular employment. Responding to a peculiar newspaper advertisement, he finds himself offered the job of a nokanshi (encoffiner) — someone who travels to the homes of the recently deceased to perform the ceremonial, ritualistic burial preparations in the presence of the departed one’s grieving family members.

What follows is a meditation on life, death, and reconciliation… with a nod to what comes next. Here’s Joseph’s complete column (he does a good job avoiding major spoilers). 

Did I mention Departures is available for instant viewing on Netflix? Or that the haunting soundtrack is up on iTunes, and has been on my computer’s playlist continuously for the past week?

Brian Saint-Paul


Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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