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) that 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.