Sunday, July 10, 2011

Noruwei no mori (Norwegian Wood) (2010)

Winning streak has ended.

Norwegian Wood is a coming-of-age story that delves into suicide and its effects on the survivors. Toru (Ken'ichi Norwegian WoodMatsuyama) and Kizuki (Kengo Kôra) are old friends. Without any indication, Kizuki kills himself. Toru leaves for university and runs into Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), Kizuki’s girlfriend at his death. The two become involved as they share their grief and indulge in sexual awakening. See, it’s the 60s. Naoko digresses and ends up in an asylum in the woods (is this how they treated the mentally ill back then?). Feeling a sense of responsibility and longing, Toru visits Naoko, as she progressively gets worse.

At university, he meets Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), the peculiar ray of light in this dark tunnel of suffering (Naoko’s roommate at the asylum also provides some odd humor). She likes him. He isn’t available because he is trying to do right by Naoko. Meanwhile, his roommate encourages him to take advantage of being young and single in the sexually liberated ‘60s.

Parts of the plot are compelling, but the experience goes on for too long. Scenes are uneven and plod together, but the landscapes are palpably beautiful. With several suicides and rare moments of levity cushioned between so much calamity and, at times, boredom, it’s difficult to sit through. I’ve watched more distressing movies that have ended too fast; something is missing here. The movie ends on a hopeful note that feels wrong.

Based on the novel by Haruki Murakami, the movie will likely appeal to the author’s die-hard fans. I’d love to hear how someone who revered the book felt about the movie. It’s possible that the story is too cerebral to capture accurately on screen.

Director: Anh Hung Tran

Country: Japan

Genre: Drama

Run time: 133 minutes

Scale: 2

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