"What if I can't get wet ever again?"
Set in 1960s
Norwegian Wood (Noruwei no mori) is a film about
depression, loss and sexuality. After his best friend Kizuki commits suicide
aged 17, Watanabe (Ken-ichi Japan Matsuyama) moves to and enrols at
University in an attempt to escape the depressing nature of his home town. By
chance one day he meets his dead friend’s ex-girlfriend Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi)
and the two begin a loving but strained relationship. Naoko has never truly got
over the death of Kizuki and one day disappears, eventually turning up in a sanatorium
deep in the forest. Watanabe tries to maintain both a friendly and sexual
relationship with the depressed Naoko but this is made difficult by her mental
state and the introduction of the outgoing and self confident Midori (Kiko Mizuhara)
who vies for Watanabe’s affections. Tokyo
The film features some quite stunning cinematography and beautifully shot landscapes. This was great because the actual story was quite depressing and boring. I never really got on board with any of the characters and felt distanced from them. Watanabe is a man who is deeply in love and trying to do the right thing but at the same time living through a sexually adventurous age and wants to have something from both worlds. Naoko was a very loving but deeply disturbed character and the two of them spent most of the film staring into nothingness or out across beautiful vistas. It kind of felt like a two hour long perfume advert. Another thing it reminded me of is the sort of French tragic-dramas that go down so well with critics but are seen by about six people, all of whom hate it. I think you have to get on board fairly early on with this film and I just didn’t.
Along with the fantastic cinematography the film also features some great prog-rock and psychedelic music from the period which works really well. The score is also excellent and was composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The great Beatles song Norwegian Wood from which the source material got its name is also used.
On the whole the film is incredibly beautiful but feels allusive and distant. Thematically it is sound and aesthetically it works but it is overly long and too dull.