Norwegian Wood Greenwich Picturehouse 13 March


Toru and Naoko

It looks like what you thought of this film depended on whether you’d seen the book by Hiruki Murakami and on how you liked that.  I had read the book but was by no means a total believer.  And when the film started with Kizuki gassing himself rather than with the song I wondered whether this was an effort to save money on royalties.  I felt bored.

A lot of the things I remembered best had been left out–Reiko’s story (and wrinkles), Hatsumi and Toru playing billiards, Midori explaining how she had taught herself to cook, Toru feeding her father in hospital, Toru describing how he had to wind himself up at the beginning of each day…

Midori (wearing green!) and Toru

A lot of the psychological development and examination of relationships was substituted by footage of storm-tossed landscapes thrashing soulfully.  That was reminiscent of Tarkovsky, as was Toru’s unheeding wandering among crowds of protesters.

The actress playing Midori ( Mizuhara–apparently a model rather than an actress) was painfully, radiantly beautiful when I thought the plot depended on her being the girl next door and Naoko being the beautiful one.  Everyoner was beautifully dressed as well.  In terms of acting, this Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) didn’t appear schizophrenic to me–more a case of the pretty mental illness that you get in books and films and that doesn’t correspond to any recognised diagnosis.

The film did grow on me as time went on.  I was pleased with the recognition that sex sometimes just won’t work even for keen healthy young people.  There was a truly Chekhovian moment in GPH when Reiko came to visit Toru in the apartment he had rented:

–So you were planning to live here with Naoko?

–I need to do the washing-up.

(Raw coughing from the row behind.)

I did at least seriously consider crying at one stage, and we did get to hear the Beatles song at the end.

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