When my niece was here, we went to see a foreign film I'd never heard of, the Japanese film Departures. With all of my recent blogging about meaningful work, I thought I would mention it here. In the movie, a young man needs a job after his orchestra is disbanded, and he finds a job preparing bodies for burial--not in terms of embalming, but in terms of the elaborate rituals followed during what we would call the funeral service. I learned a lot about Japanese rituals around the end of death, and it made me think of our own rituals. Here in the U.S., we seem in deep denial about the fact that we're all going to die, and before this happens, we're likely to experience the loss of just about everything we love. The movie was very open about the grieving of those left behind. It made me want to grab onto my husband and hold him tight. The film made me happy about all the times I made the extra effort to go see my family members.
The movie had a lot to teach the audience about savoring the current moment and about how none of us is really on this earth for very long. It also had a subplot about the loss of a father and the son's search for his place in the world. Very moving.
The movie also had a lot to say about meaningful work. At first,the young man is repelled by the nature of the work. But as he does the work, he realizes the important role that he and his boss play in the process. He almost loses his wife when she finds out what he does, but by the end of the film, she, too, realizes how vital his work is.
There's also a subplot about art and how artistic ambition and the need for creativity impact these issues. The young man is a gifted cellist, yet there is no work for a gifted cellist. Throughout the movie, the young man returns to his music for various reasons (and the music that he plays is gorgeous!).
I'm not sure that the movie was what my niece expected. I had never heard of it, so I had no expectations (probably the best way to enjoy popular culture). I found it beautiful in its seasonal rhythms, beautiful in its music, beautiful in its meditative state and what it inspired in me.