Norwegian Wood movie review

Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) loses his high school best friend to suicide. He runs into his late friend’s girlfriend, Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) during university, and they become close. Shortly after sleeping with each other, Naoko’s mental illness forces her to escape to a remote medical retreat. Watanabe struggles to support Naoko as her mental health deteriorates. Meanwhile, Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), an attractive fellow student places Watanabe in her cross hairs.

Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★
Only 만: ★★★.5

Side Dish: There is actually a cocktail called Norwegian Wood, and it appears to be reminiscent of a nordic forest rather than Japanese melancholy. You will find the recipe at Serious Eats.

Only 만: I’m ashamed to say that I read this novel so long ago that I remember almost nothing. On the upside, that means there will be very little comparison to the book in this review.

Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: I have never read the book, but I have read 1Q84 by the same author, so I understand that the pace probably follows that of the novel: quite slow and relatively chatter-free. Surprisingly, the slower pace was not a problem for me.

Only: When I looked up the director, I realized it was the same one who made The Scent of Green Papaya, another fantastically slow movie which I enjoyed. So I’m with you that the slow pace was not a problem. And, it certainly helped that it was so beautifully filmed.

Norwegian Wood 1

Junggugeo Kaenada: Yes, both the visuals and the actors were very attractive. The way the scenes were set up was very artful, though it wasn’t a case of aesthetics over emotion. You could definitely understand the way the characters felt, even if you couldn’t understand their actions. I suppose we can give the actors credit for subtly conveying such believable angst and longing, and the director, too?

Only: The mood of the film was melancholy, without it necessarily being conveyed by the actors themselves. I think the director controlled the amount of emotion the actors were expressing pretty carefully. When they did show emotion, it had a lot more impact, as when Watanabe finally cried.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I have no problem appreciating this movie for its technical prowess and execution. Yet, I found myself perplexed and irritated by the characters, though maybe that is just a cultural gap between my way of thinking and those of the Japanese characters.

Only: No, there was something ridiculous about some of the characters’ actions, though that would certainly be true to life. The thing that bothered me more was that it seemed to me that the women of this film were portrayed as unfathomable aliens; maybe they are to a 20-year-old man. But, even I, as a woman who is somewhat over 20, had trouble fathoming most of the female characters.

Junggugeo Kaenada: To be fair, the only one I did not understand was Naoko, who was like the spirit of survivor’s guilt, floating around and wailing whenever the mood struck her. I think Midori was considerably easier to understand: she is a typical college student who is tempted away from her boyfriend by Watanabe, and she sends out mixed messages as a result.

Norwegian Wood 2

Only: Honestly, I stopped trying to figure Midori out at some point. But for me, the most baffling was Reiko, who showed up at the end, and wanted to have sex with Watanabe. Maybe, it was meant to be a healing gesture for both of them? I had no idea, and it seemed random.

Junggugeo Kaenada: Come to think of it, if this movie was not so restrained and slow, it could easily have turned into a Harlequin romance or soft porn. Watanabe really gets around, because it seemed like every female character wanted him.

Only: Truth. I think that’s where the film lost me a little bit, despite the restraint, and the pretty pictures of nature to fill in the space. But, it wasn’t fatal; I will say that I enjoyed Norwegian Wood.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I can’t even say whether I enjoyed the movie. I hung on to the very end, mostly to continue watching the beautiful images rather than for any actual interest in the plot or the characters. Saying I enjoyed Norwegian Wood would be like saying I enjoyed a music video.

Only: I’d agree with that. As a story or even as a character study, the movie left me cold. It made more sense as an evocation of a mood, a certain time and place in life, like any other coming-of-age movie. I don’t know if I’d put it as music video; maybe more like an exercise in nostalgia.

 

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