The Departure a Japanese priest who specializes in suicide prevention (2017)



Most people would probably be reluctant to answer a newspaper ad reading Monk wanted. No experience necessary.



But fortunately, that’s exactly what the subject of Lana Wilson’s new documentary did. He’s Ittetsu Nemoto, a 44-year-old Japanese former punk rocker and troubled club kid turned Buddhist monk who has made a specialty of counseling depressed individuals contemplating suicide. In its poetic portrait of a man whose quest to help others has cost him dearly both emotionally and physically, The Departure proves quietly profound. Wilson, who previously co-directed the acclaimed documentary After Tiller, handles the emotional subject matter with a subtle restraint that makes the film all the more moving.

Eschewing narration or commentary by anyone other than Nemoto, the film has a Zen-like quality that would be soothing if the subject matter were not inherently disturbing. One of the most powerful scenes shows a session conducted by Nemoto with a group of depressed people. He instructs them to write down on small slips of paper the things they love most in life, then the names of three loved ones, and finally three things they’d like to experience but haven’t. Close-ups of the slips of paper reveal some of the answers including love food and travel the whole world.

Nemoto than asks them to crumple the first three slips of paper into a ball and throw them away. Then the next three and then the final three. He tells them that this represents what dying will be like, the loss of everything they’ve known and loved. Then they lie on the ground, cloths on their faces, as he quietly rings a bell in a symbolic representation of death.

The film depicts several of Nemoto’s interactions with the people he’s counseling, the camera discreetly looking away at the more intense moments of their anguish. It soon becomes clear that the stress of his calling is exacting a toll on Nemoto, who seems to be constantly on call; at one point he receives a text message reading simply I want to die.

I take on so much of their suffering. I can never show them how draining it is Nemoto tells his wife, with whom, like his infant son, he spends too little time. We learn that his health is precarious, with blocked arteries that aren’t being helped by his excessive drinking.

The Departure a Japanese priest who specializes in suicide prevention, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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