Norwegian Wood (Noruwei no mori)

First Hit: Amazing and extraordinary cinematographic shots in a long drawn out mediocre story.

From the very opening scene in the pool hall, to scenes in falling snow, to scenes in various dwellings, to scenes in the countryside this film captures some of the best pictures I’ve seen, on screen, in a very long time. It is too bad that the story didn’t hold up as well.

I’m sure that much of my ability to not engage in this story is cultural, however it didn’t help that this 133 minute film dragged on about how love isn’t necessarily returned by the person you love. It was expressed here in a different way. Naoko (played by Rinko Kikuchi) couldn’t “get wet” when she was with her long time (from childhood) love Kizuki.

Feeling despondent Kizuki commits suicide probably because he could get his girlfriend "wet". Their mutual friend Toru (played by Ken’ichi Matsuyama) is in love with Naoko. When she visits him on her 20th birthday she makes love to him and is wet. She is now so confused that she runs off to a center in the mountains to get well.

Her friend there, Reiko (played by Reika Kirishima), has been there for 7 years and is estranged from her husband and daughter. Toru meets Midori (played by Kiko Mizuhara) who has a longtime boyfriend but doesn’t really like him. She tells Toru that there may be a chance for them, but that because of her current relationship and that Toru is dedicated to Naoko it may take some time. 

So what we have is a lot of people who are with people they don’t want to be with and wanting to be with other people. The reality is that they are looking for a feeling within by looking outside themselves and this is confused by sex.

This story gets overly complex complicated resulting in time-consuming behavior of people refusing to let go of what they are holding on to and wanting something to be different than what is.

Kikuchi is convincing as the deeply saddened Naoko. Matsuyama is effective as Toru. Kirishima is good as Naoko’s friend and support in the retreat; she was especially effective in her last scene with Toru. Mizuhara was mesmerizing as Midori which a kooky reasoning as to what constitutes love for her.  Haruki Murakami and Anh Hung Tran wrote a very long script which needed trimming and additional focus. Anh Hung Tran did a stellar job of cinematography but he needed to tighten up this film.

Overall: The pictures were definitely worth watching, however the story lagged and felt uncommitted.