I really enjoyed the Japanese film Departures, directed by Yojiri Takita, and winner of the 2009 Oscar for the best foreign language film. It blends sensitivity, a good plot, wonderful acting and, above all, it makes us think about the worth of any occupation when it is carried out with dignity and respect. The main character in the film prepares the bodies of the dead for their final rest. His line of work is rejected by those around him. However, he prepares the corporeal body for life beyond with such elegance, grace and profound respect that he acquires the stature of an artist.

We can apply these same qualities to any type of work, regardless of what we do. In the society we live in each person plays a fundamental role in the working of the whole; I cannot understand why we insist in seeking self-fulfilment in climbing up the corporate ladder when possibly we should focus more on what we do, and on finding meaning in carrying out our jobs as if they were a work of art, whether they are management positions, auxiliary functions or we work in a funeral parlour. We are bent on finding meaning outside of ourselves when, very probably, real strength is found within ourselves. This is precisely what differentiates some workers from others: on the one hand, those who really live and enjoy their job and see it as a service to others, as opposed to those who consider it a mere routine. In the troubled economic times we’re immersed in, it’s not so easy to change companies or position. Perhaps this is an opportunity to find fulfilment in the small details of our jobs, whether we’re writing a report, cleaning or managing people.

Departures is also a reflection on death. In the film, death is shown to be a natural event and is presented without melodrama. Although the death of a loved one is seen to be extremely painful for those left behind, the film also conveys how life goes on in spite of this pain. Unlike certain Far Eastern countries, in Spain we tend to be more histrionic when faced with death (up to a few decades ago, people still hired “professional” mourners), and there is a certain taboo associated with it. In the film, however, life and death flow in parallel, silently. It’s really worth seeing, and experiencing.  

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