Home > Reviews > DEPARTURES (OKURIBITO) – Joe Hisaishi


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 2008 Academy Awards, Departures is a gentle, moving Japanese film directed by Yôjirô Takita, starring Masahiro Motoki as Daigo, a professional cellist who, following the break-up of his orchestra, moves back to his hometown and takes a job as a “Nokanshi”, an undertaker’s assistant who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life.

The score for Departures is by the wonderful Joe Hisaishi, whose reputation in the west continues to grow, mainly as a result of his regular collaborations with legendary Anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Departures, however, is a very different score from the likes of Ponyo or Princess Mononoke. Taking his cue from the fact that the principal character is a former cellist, Hisaishi’s score is steeped in sumptuous performances from that instrument.

The effortless elegance in Hisaishi’s writing is always a delight to experience, and Departures is no difference. He accentuates his cello performances with delicate, tinkling pianos and dream-like strings, giving the whole score a faraway, wistful quality that is very appealing. Cues such as “Nohkan”, the playful “Goodbye Cello”, the swooning “Beautiful Dead” and the joyous “Ending” are simply gorgeous. “On Record” and “Ave Maria” are probably the best cues on the album, the former being a simple yet supreme duet between cello and piano that melts the heart, while the latter begins as a reflective cello solo, before gradually picking up the entire orchestra on its way to a superb conclusion.

Elsewhere, the brief piano themes in “Kaisan” and “Kizuma” are very pretty, while, later cues such as “Model” and “Washing” and “Gui Dance” have mischievous pizzicato elements, woodwind waltzes and spiky rhythms that reminds us that a sense of humor is often necessary to cope with loss. There is so much beauty and effortless grace, such a richness of texture and instrumental performance in Joe Hisaishi’s music, it’s amazing he hasn’t been discovered by the wider world (although I’m almost glad he hasn’t, lest he be forced to be untrue to his voice). Departures marks yet another magnificent example in his already swollen filmography. Recommended.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Shine of Snow I (1:14)
  • Nohkan (3:12)
  • Kaisan (0:55)
  • Goodbye Cello (2:18)
  • New Road (1:17)
  • Model (0:49)
  • First Contact (1:53)
  • Washing (0:36)
  • Kizuna I (1:59)
  • Beautiful Dead I (3:14)
  • Okuribito (On Record) (1:53)
  • Gui-Dance (2:28)
  • Shine of Snow II (2:27)
  • Ave Maria (Okuribito) (5:31)
  • Kizuna II (2:06)
  • Beautiful Dead II (2:39)
  • Father (1:42)
  • Okuribito (Memory) (4:12)
  • Okuribito (Ending) (4:59)

Running Time: 45 minutes 24 seconds

A&M Records UMCK-1268 (2009)

  1. January 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Good site and great article. Thanks.

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