DEPARTURES (2008) and Death, Dying and Disposal Conference

I did not think I would blog before January but at the end of the year a coincidence compels me to put down in writing  some interesting observations.

Yesterday as a respite from Xmas preparations we settled down to view a film  Departures (2008that I had put aside. As it was not about an old woman I thought it could wait when it won the Academy Award for best foreign film in 2009. By a strange coincidence my face book, this morning, alerts me to an academic conference  Death, Dying and Disposal 11 International conference – Theory meets practice;  and a few days ago I was reading the report of a OFN (Older Feminist Network) workshop on Death and Dying.

The conference is advertised as multidisciplinary. Will there be a paper on Departures? the film is so unusual. In our visual culture when killing and death is so often depicted , our attitudes to the dead body, the corpse is not talked about. Different religious rituals must exist but  what of the non believers? A friend who is 92 and still works as a music teacher is the only one who declared spontaneously  in a gathering that she did not wish any rituals or celebration on her death and that she wanted her body to be given for scientific research.

Departures lasts 2 hours and 10 minutes and deals with  the Japanese ritual of encoffinment. It is very watchable, it is thought-provoking and touching.  It has humour and spirituality and no synopsis or reviews can convey its richness.  On first viewing however it presents me with a puzzle. What is the significance of the gender imbalance in the dead people and has anybody commented on it?  There are 9 dead people in the film. The old destitute old woman found 2 weeks after her death, two other old women, one middle-aged woman, one young woman and one transvestite. Of the males there is one grandfather, one young boy and the father of the main protagonist. There is also an anonymous man who killed himself in a hotel but he is mentioned very briefly and is not on screen at any stage.

It is difficult for me to be objective on a first viewing  and I wonder what to make of this observation.  My male partner did not even notice the gender differences. But I do I feel that there might be a valid interpretation for this strong impression that I had to share. I will wait and hope that this film will be mentioned and discussed at the conference.

About rinaross

Born in 1935. MA in Film and Television Studies at the University of Westminster 1998. Studying the representation of older women in film since then.
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3 Responses to DEPARTURES (2008) and Death, Dying and Disposal Conference

  1. Elizabeth O'Dell says:

    A ‘top-of-the-head’ reaction: are there more older women living alone than older men?

  2. olderwomeninfilms says:

    Un aparté : si, après un décès, des rites d’accompagnement du défunt existent depuis la nuit des temps, c’est qu’ils répondent au besoin profond de l’homme de faire le deuil pour pouvoir recommencer à vivre. Sans eux c’est beaucoup plus difficile : deuil vient de dolore et souffrir ensemble et avec un rien de cérémonie nous console sans doute. Tous les rituels ont leur raison d’être. Toujours est-il que c’est au décès de mon père que j’ai compris combien ce rituel était important pour nous. Papa avait fait la demande de ton amie et par conséquent n’a eu aucune sépulture ni cérémonie. Il a été enterré comme un chien dit-on avec justesse. J’ai eu de très nombreux cauchemars à ce sujet, voyant des membres et parties de son corps circuler devant mes yeux nocturnes ou alors le voyant, lui, dans d’horribles souffrances.   Ton amie doit avoir un certain rayonnement d’après ce que tu en dis et son voeu n’est peut-être pas souhaitable…    

    > Message du 23/12/12 19:04 > De : “ageing, ageism and feature films” > A : richbutler@orange.fr > Copie à : > Objet : [New post] DEPARTURES (2008) and Death, Dying and Disposal Conference > >WordPress.com

    rinaross posted: “I did not think I would blog before January but at the end of the year a coincidence compels me to put down in writing  some interesting observations. Yesterday as a respite from Xmas preparations we settled down to view a film  Departures (2008) t”

  3. Pingback: Departures/Okuribito (2008) | timneath

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