Norwegian Wood

So I got around to watching the film adaptation of Norwegian Wood. It’s not as good as the original book, in my opinion, which is odd considering I only read the book because I liked the look of the film trailer (and buying a book on my Kindle is faster than getting a film sent through LoveFilm).

Let’s start with the positives: the visuals are, in places, spectacular. Lots of scenes with spectacular lighting, fantastic framing, and ambitious shots. The shot of Hatsumi I’ve picked out above (it’s the only shot with a single person) was particularly great.

As soon as the film was over, I went back to try to work out what was so great with that scene. 52 seconds of Hatsumi, 24 of Wanatabe. 15 seconds of Hatsumi, 7 of Wanatabe. 24 seconds of Hatsumi, 5 of Wanatabe. 11 seconds of Hatsumi, 2 of Wanatabe. Finally, 107 seconds of Hatsumi, before her leaving the frame, the shot then panning past Nagasawa (seen for the first time) back onto Wanatabe. Most of the time Hatsumi spent on the screen she’s not talking; instead Wanatabe is, and we’re seeing her reactions. Seriously, seriously good cinema, there.

The acting, especially from the actresses playing Midori and Hatsumi, is fantastic. Despite getting too little screen time to properly demonstrate their characters and mindsets over the course of the story, they both do a fantastic job.

The music was also great. Jonny Greenwood, apparently so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

However, the film was pretty much a disappointment. The usual problems of film adaptations of books applies here: too much has to be taken out to fit the story into a single (2h13m) movie. The characters aren’t fleshed out half as much as they need to be to make you care, and can only show single facets of personalities. The reasons behind why each character feels and acts the way they do aren’t explained; some of the reasoning behind Naoko’s depression, behind Midori’s choice to hide her father, and behind Reiko existing aren’t explored, or even really glossed over.

I’d recommend to book to anyone who’s fine with depressing stories. It’s a great read, and I’m hard to please when it comes to books. But the film? I could only really recommend that to major fans of the book, or people who really like some good camera work.