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Masahiro Motoki, Darsteller von Daigo,
über die Inspiration zu NOKAN
Als ich vor fünfzehn Jahren durch Indien reiste, hat es mich tief bewegt zu sehen, wie dort Leben und Sterben zusammengehören - zwei gleichermaßen wertvolle Dinge. Zurück in Tokyo fiel mir auf, wie oft wir den Tod aus dem Alltag verbannen, als spiele er keine Rolle im Leben - wodurch wir das Leben nicht so schätzen können, wie es verdient. Als dann mein erstes Kind geboren wurde, war ich bei meiner Frau und begriff, wie nah beides beieinander liegt. Nie war ich glücklicher; ich spürte das Gleichgewicht von Geburt und Ende. Als ich dann noch die Memoiren eines buddhistischen nokan-shi, also Aufbahrers las, war die Idee zu NOKAN geboren!

Masahiro Motoki über DEPARTURES
It has been said that you were the one who came up with the original idea of the film, DEPARTURES. Was there any event that inspired you?
When I went to India about 15 years ago, I was totally moved to see that in India life and death co-exist in harmony and in a very natural way. They are both regarded equally valuable in human life.
Next to the people who are washing and grooming themselves in the river, there were people having a funeral and sending the dead bodies off. Death and life co-exists in balance there. I was fascinated and moved by the sight of these incidents.
When I returned back to Tokyo, I felt that death was intentionally hidden away from the everyday life. People are just too busy running around and don't face or look at death as an important part of our lives. This in fact, also meant that in other words, we don't appreciate and enjoy "life" as much as we should.
Since my travel to India, I always think about the meaning of life and death which lie side by side. When my child was born, I was there with my wife. Seeing my own child being born, I realized how close life and death were. I was so happy to see my child born and I couldn't be a happier man. But then at the same time I realized death carries the same importance as birth.
Did you know the job of a "nokanshi" (= encoffineer / the person who works on the ceremonial preparations of the dead bodies before putting them in to the coffin; dt. "Aufbahrer und Einsarger") from before?
The first time I took deep interest in nokanshi was when I read a book called "Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician" by Shinmon Aoki. I was deeply moved by the book.
As I had started to take interest in the way of life and death, I was totally fascinated by the book and the job of encoffinment. I started to think about a movie based on the book from the first time I read the book.
Did you actually study the encoffinment ceremony from someone, or attend the real ceremony?
When I was offered to do the character in this film "Okuribito" (DEPARTURES), I had to learn to be an encoffinner as you can imagine. I accompanied a professional encoffinner and learned how a professional encoffinner carry out the ritual. I tried to capture the elegance and the beauty that the ceremony conveyed as much as possible.
I even secretly attended the actual ceremony, where a professional encoffinner was actually performing the ritual in front of a grieving family.
As I looked and observed the ritual, it became more and more clear that the ritual of encoffinment was extremely artistic, just like the tea ceremony. It is peaceful and requires polished skillfulness. I was amazed that the ritual was done in complete silence. It definitely reminded me of the tea ceremony.


Yojiro Takita über DEPARTURES (aus: FILMKRANT)
1. Why were death and the way people deal with that such an important topic for you to make a film about?
I received the idea for this project from the producer. I knew of the job of a "nokanshi" (encoffineer, dt. Aufbahrer und Einsarger) through reading a book, but as I have never actually been in direct contact with them, there was too little I knew of the job.
When I read the script, I felt the content very familiar and close, and though the film will be dealing with death, I felt that the film would talk more of "life" and I would definitely be able to make an interesting film. The idea and the after feeling of reading the script was surprisingly uplifting.
I never had any consciousness about the subject, but I felt that "sending someone off" (the Japanese title OKURIBITO means "send-off person") was beautiful, and I also felt that one's way of life may show in how one dies (and is sent off, to the next world). I wanted to show the contrast of the sadness of losing something important, but at the same time, feeling the warmth of people (although the dead people are not "warm" anymore) from the death and how the people left would realize this warmth from these deepest sorrows. I also think finding the charm and interest in themes that other people do not want to touch, is probably a habit to all directors.
Komplettes Interview bei www.filmkrant.nl
Im "Archief" das Juni-Heft (311) wählen,
dann rechts im gelben Inhaltsverzeichnis "Departures" anklicken ...
2. Did your original idea for the film have more to do with the culture of dealing with the deceased or more with people choosing their own way of life? I read that Japanese author Shinmon Aoki's mortician memoir, "Coffinman" was the inspiration. Is that correct?
The original idea came from the main actor Masahiro Motoki, where he seemed to have received the inspiration of life and death through his travels in India, and also though Shinmon Aoki's "Coffinman: A Journal of a Buddhist Mortician."
We were definitely more interested in the human being's dealing with life. The ritual was just more of a symbolic figure to show connection with the death and life.
3. The image I had from dealing with the deceased in Japanese culture was that it's totally accepted and incorporated in rituals. But you show that a lot of people don't actually want anything to do with it. Daigo is looked down upon for doing the job he has as nokanshi. Is this how many Japanese view death? As something they don't want anything to do with?
I was interested in the theme all the more because my experience with death was quite limited and somewhat distant to me. Although I participated in ordinary funerals before, I had never seen or thought about what was happening on the other side of the funeral and the people who were involved with this.
When I was small, "death" was actually closer. Funeral has often taken place inside each household, and death was somewhat a very close incident. However, whether or not I had actually realized what "death" was about at that time, is another story. While I was gathering information for the film, I suddenly felt the sense of realizing the presence of "death" right in front of myself, just as I felt in my childhood. What existed there was that the family, the relatives, did not despise nor detest "death" at all, and all there was the closeness. The film takes these feelings of fear towards "death" and tries to turn it into something more "close" as it should be. Life and Death exist side by side.
Any human beings have to face death at one point, but at the same time, they try to turn one's eyes away from death. However, through this film, many people must have recognized that death must be faced in one way or another, and if they must, this was how they would face it. I feel that the audience may have replaced themselves with one of the characters and tried to touch or feel their death through other people's lives.