Catholics love rituals. Sacraments that mark our milestones. Ashes on our foreheads that remind us of time. Candles that bless our throats and palms that speak of glory.
The Japanese love rituals too. Tea ceremonies that stop time in its tracks. Archers who lose themselves and find the target. And, most beautiful of all, the ritual at death when the corpse is cleansed, dressed, and blessed in front of the family before putting it in the coffin.
Can you imagine making a sweet, life-affirming, and totally entertaining movie out of the Japanese ceremony of encoffinment?
Yes, the Japanese movie Departures (2008) is a wonderful story about a young man who can’t find work as a cellist and in order to support his family, apprentices as an encoffineer. And yes, (or you wouldn’t read it here) you can be sure that it is an upper, an inspiration, and a sacrament of a movie that will bless you as you watch.
Just as a funeral Mass is for the living, so the ritual of encoffinment is for the loved ones of the deceased, one that is from beginning to end a commemoration of their life together.
Departures won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009.
Get Why Stay Catholic? updates and more from Loyola Press on Facebook.