Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Murakami Haruki, Norwegian Wood tells the story of Toru Watanabe, who after losing his best friend Kizuki to suicide creates a strong bond with Kizuki’s girlfriend Noako. They develop a unique relationship while choosing to deal with their grief in different ways. Norwegian Wood is a story of loss and sorrow, love and loyalty and how they are all connected. Beautifully realized into film by Anh Hung Tran.
You don’t see movies like this very often. I have heard a lot about the book, everyone tells me that the book is amazing; I can tell that it would be based on the atmosphere that is created within the film. I do, however get the feeling that the film is providing me with only a summary of certain scenes, conflicts and characters, none the less I was enthralled from start to finish. Toru (or Watanabe as he is affectionately called by most of the characters in the film, played by Ken’ ichi Matsuyama) is a very charming twenty year old. As innocent as you remember your ascent into adulthood to be, you see him grow up throughout the film, he is real and convincing. He never dramatizes his reactions to scenarios, his character lives in the moment and you follow him because of this. Rinko Kikuchi as Noako is sublime, a beautiful performance that makes you believe in her innocence and the tragedy that surrounds her.
This film is a love story but it is tragic and woeful. However in saying this I was, oddly, left with an uplifting feeling after I left the cinema. Throughout all the trials these young people put themselves through there is still a sense of hope that lays over the proceedings like a thick veil of naivety, assuring us all will be well in the end. Toru loves deeply, but you don’t quite know what fuels his devotion. Can people be attracted to the hopeless and the dependant? Can you be in love with someone without desiring the physical form of love? These questions circle your mind during the movie, which is why this two hour movie will hold your interest. It’s epic but it only spans a few years and it is sad and joyful at the same time without being corny or forced. Norwegian Wood is set in the 60s (Beatles Song) and there are a lot of clues around the characters that let you know this even though the captions do the work for you. There are riots going on all around Toru, there are cultural changes happening all around him but all that he can focus on is his emotional dilemma and the downward spiral of those he loves, which is why you can relate to him, regardless of the time period the characters represent an age where you were torn between being expected to be an adult and still finding your place in the world with child’s eyes.
The film was very silent, with emotion not needing to be cued by orchestral interludes but strong chemistry and effective body language. They did however have a few shocking moments cued by menacing music, but it only added ( not to my dread) to my feelings of acceptance, I already knew what was going to happen, horrific as it was it was a natural progression. This film should be seen; even though it is subtitled it is highly relatable to anyone who has been twenty, in love or anyone who has lost someone, hopelessly clinging to any sort of positive feeling however confusing. Wonderfully acted and directed. One of the best dramatic films I have ever seen.
I give Norwegian Wood 4 and a half stars out of 5. In Cinemas October 6th