Movie Review – Norwegian Wood

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” 

Norwegian Wood – ノルウェイの森 –   is a Japanese drama based on Murakami Haruki’s novel of the same title.

The setting is Tokyo in the 60’s, the main characters are Toru Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama), a serious young guy and Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), a shy and delicate girl. There is one thing that binds them together: the loss of a beloved person, Kizuki, Toru’s best friend and Naoko’s lover, who committed suicide. As time passes by, the two youngsters grow close and fall in love. Naoko is still grieving the loss of her lover and slowly falls into a deep depression blaming herself for Kizuki’s death. She breaks down and disappears from Toru’s life. He manages to keep himself together and attends a university where he meets Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), and outgoing, self-confident girl – the exact opposite of Naoko. They become romantically involved when Naoko contacts him from a sanatorium. Toru is torn between the two girls – his past and future – and can’t decide what to do. He simultaneously dates the cool and energetic Midori and pays visits to the retreat to Naoko where they share romantic moments with each other. Naoko’s mental health is fast deteriorating and she becomes schizophrenic. We can all predict that a happy ending in this case is impossible.

“I was at that age, that time of life when every sight, every feeling, every thought came back, like a boomerang, to me. And worse, I was in love. Love with complications.”

The director, Tran Anh Hung contacted Murakami a few years ago to express his interest in adapting “Norwegian Wood”. This led to a meeting in Tokyo and the two of them collaborated on the first draft of the screenplay. The writer gave extensive notes concerning the script, so there are scenes in the movie that we can’t find in the novel. It is rather a series of memories and reflections of Toru brought to the surface by the Beatles’ song, than one cohesive story.

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The actors become one with the character they’re playing. The whole movie gives the impression of a soft dream, the memories of a man looking back to his past.
With its wonderful cinematography – scenes of nature accompanying the two lovers on their secret meetings -, poetic dialogues and astonishing music written by Johnny Greenwood, the movie absorbs the audience.

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