This for me was an adaptation gone very wrong. I don’t know how this is what everyone involved thought was the best they could do for screen with a book like Norwegian Wood. Maybe I understood the book wrong, or the movie, or both. In the film, Watanabe is just this boring guy, who doesn’t do much, who happens to be in love with a girl with serious issues, and is friends with another girl who is inexplicably in love with him. That’s not how I saw him in the book. They also completely cut out Reiko’s back story. While it’s not crucial to the other stories, it explains a lot about her character.
The book is slow, and I think that’s forgivable in a novel, but the film didn’t need to be. Multiple points in the film, you can literally feel the story come to a halt. Instead of getting on with the story, we get long shots of scenery. The film is absolutely stunning to watch, and scenery is very important in the book, and I get what director Tran Anh Hung was trying to get at, but varying angles and zooms of the same scenery is not really necessary, and just feels self indulgent.
The casting was good, all the actors really brought Haruki Murakami’s characters to life. Rinko Kikuchi, in particular, was very good as Naoko. From the moment you meet her there is already the sense of instability, so the change is more development than just a big jump to craziness. Kiko Mizuhara (Midori), Tetsuji Tamayama (Nagasawa), and Reika Kirishima (Reiko) are all decent in their roles. Tamayama suited the role of Nagasawa well, and his costumes and everything were exactly what you’d expect them to be. Eriko Hatsune leaves quite an impression as Hatsumi, even though her role is very small. The dinner scene where the focus is almost always on her was brilliant.
I didn’t get the editing… It was kind of all over the place. It often seemed abrupt and out of place, and didn’t always seem to be in sync with the score. The score as well, though good when it was there, there were a lot of scenes where you just hear the rain or the wind, and I think a little bit of background music could have given it a little more life.
This is one of my biggest disappointments of all novel-to-screen adaptations. Maybe there is something in Tran Anh Hung’s filmmaking style that went completely over my head, but that rarely ever happens to be. I’d rather pretend like this film didn’t happen, and wait for the rest of my life for the better adaptation that will never come.