Norwegian Wood – A Film Adaptation Of Haruki Murakami’s Novel

Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite writers.  I do not think it is possible to bring any of his books into a big screen.  Because much of the content is based on the characters’ observation and their state of emotion, or even the writer’s observation on the world he creates.  His story tends to get more and more surreal towards the end.  But if anyone would want to make a film out of his books, “Norwegian Wood” is a good candidate.  It is a rather straightforward love story.  I am a huge fan of Murakami and I was curious on how “Norwegian Wood” would look like as an adaption.

I can imagine how lost one may feel watching “Norwegian Wood”.  I have read the book and you may wish to read the review I have written.  I feel that the movie is by and large faithful to the literature, down to the dialog level.  As someone who is familiar with the written content, it seems to me that some of the key essences may have been lost in the adaptation.  A 133 minutes film may sound long to you.  When I told Cynthia and TK at the end of the show that the film felt too rush, they were shocked.  The foundation of the storyline lies in a subplot structure of a trio – be it as 2 boys and 1 girl or 2 girls and 1 boy.  These subplots are linked through a common theme – love and death.  That, I do not think the filmmakers have explicitly brought out.  Some of the subplots have so little air time that I think they may have been overlooked.  I do not blame the filmmakers though.  I even think that the way the subplots are segmented in terms of air time is proportionate to how the book is written (the first subplot has ended on page 31 of 386).  A clearly demarcation of the different segments of the film like a text on timeline and location would have helped the audience in digesting the story’s structure.

The leading actor and actress have done a phenomenal work in bringing the characters alive.  It is heart wrenching to see them cry in pain.  On one hand, this movie thrills me down my spine when some of the key scenes stay so faithfully to the book.  On the other hand, the omission of many of the side dialogs and observations has made part of the film looks like a silly chain of sex scenes.  This film summarizes the book essentially, but not perfectly.  If you have taken the effort to watch the movie – a very slow moving one by the way – you ought to read the book.  If you have not read the book, I strongly recommend you to pick up a copy and finish it in the weekend before watching “Norwegian Wood” on screen.  All in all, I am still thrilled that one of Murakami’s book has made it to the theater.  And I would challenge more filmmakers in the future to adapt his other books.

Related Entry: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – A Structured Love Story So Dark, So Beautiful

5 thoughts on “Norwegian Wood – A Film Adaptation Of Haruki Murakami’s Novel”

  1. What I am concerned is if they adapt this movie “tastefully”, because at some point in the book it became “distasteful”, especially the silly ending.

    Then again, watching Rinko Kikuchi is enough. I watched her in “Babel” she is mute. I want to listen to her talk. 🙂

    1. JoV – In contrary, I thought the ending was nicely done. With one line of response, that concludes the character’s decision between past and future.

      However, I think I know what you mean by “distasteful”. Like I mentioned, at times the movie seems like a series of silly sex acts. I would have preferred some of these acts – which are taken out of context because unlike reading, we can’t spend so much time in watching a movie – should have been omitted.

      Ah … Rinko played a mute in Babel? I should pick up that movie one day!

  2. I watched the movie on a flight back home to Singapore from London, and found that it was rather disconnected and jarring. Disappointingly, the storyline wasn’t as well integrated as I thought it would be, and the awkward pauses of silence somehow distracted from rather than added to the intense emotional dilemmas faced by the protagonists. Somehow or other, the characters also came across as rather hollow, one-dimensional, and self-absorbed personalities – hardly anybody that I would feel or root for.

    1. Walter – I suppose the experience of watching an art movie on an in-flight entertainment system could be different from say watching in a theater. Those long pauses of silence are commonly found in European art films. I remember watching a film whereby a young boy and an old man watching the sun set. And it was a really long silence.

      Pauses of silence is often deployed to emphasis on the inner state of the character. But how much we can understand that inner state depends very much on how much we are into the characters, which in your case, since you do not feel for the characters, it would be hard for you to understand what those pauses are trying to say. As for me, I have read the book, so those silence pauses do mean something.

      Hence, your observation is correct. And that is also aligned to mine as I still think that it is quite impossible to make a movie out of this famous Japanese writer’s work.

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