“I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me” is a line from the song Norwegian Wood by The Beatles which this Movie and Novel got it’s name from. The film haunts me in the way the novel does. At best it serves that purpose well and I tend to like what the director has done with this. Having watched all of his previous films I’m rather fond of his style and am always quite affected by them. Music plays a big factor in that and the music here reflects Naoko’s inner turmoil well. Suicide is a background theme of the movie and book. There’s a certain frustration because unlike some other forms of media the movie doesn’t really deal with it. It’s more about the people left behind, We aren’t given answers to why people kill themselves and true to life sometimes that is the case. It might be that thing that is most tormenting.
The film photography is exquisite, very beautiful. Tran has an impressive eye for detail in his films exploring the most intricate things that are often so tiny and unnoticeable in our every day lives. I feel it’s a return to form from his last film “I come with the Rain” where he shied away from that into something a little more mainstream.
Rinko Kikuchi as Naoko was perfect, she resembles the image of Naoko that formed in my mind when reading the book, Midori too is also close to the image I have of the character and both actresses give a great performance. Kenichi Matsuyama as Watanabe I was less thrilled with, the unsure and young Toru doesn’t really come across in Matsuyama’s performance. There is a vulnerability with the character that is missing here, unfortunately casting a more geeky, less manly type of actor won’t cut it for audiences.
This film might have problems finding an audience. To appreciate it I think having read the novel or being familiar with Murakami’s works will be of benefit. However as a fan of the novel you may also dislike the adaptation of the material as is typical with such things. But scripts are far shorter than novels. Before I had imagined a director like Wong Kar Wai making this thinking his style suits Murakami’s world. For me I like both Murakami’s work and also Tran Hung’s work so I felt I got the best of both worlds and was given the Director’s personal interpretation of the material.