Norwegian Wood


The film is about Toru Watanabe a young man in his first years of university in Tokyo. Two years earlier his best friend committed suicide. Watanabe bumps into his friends girlfriend -Naoko in a Tokyo park and they start a tentative and chaste relationship. Still messed up by the death of her boyfriend Naoko has a breakdown and enters hospital.  Watanabe visits her religiously. Then he meets  Midori a fun and viavacious girl, there is a spark between them but  Watanabe feels he owes his love to Naoko.

The film has kind of a dream quality. The cinematography, production design and costumes are particularly excellent lots of pastel checks and patterns, beautiful knitwear and shirt and matching wallpaper and designs.  It seems to be going for a modern view of the late sixties rather than going for ‘authentic’ We saw it at Screen on the Green – digital projection and the detail is so clear and strong it felt like you could touch it.

The story has the strong flavour of memory to it. We see the characters in their apartments together or alone but not in the context of their families or jobs. So it is a dreamy kind of world that Watanabe inhabits and drifts through. For example – we are told that Naoko is at a hospital. Most hospitals I’ve been to you drive up to the car park and go in. Here visiting involves arriving on foot walking across a beautiful hilly field and through a wood – that reflect the changing seasons through the film. Naoko and her carer – another patient stand waiting for Watanabe at the edge of the wood, like fairy tale characters, take him to their apartment. The idea of the hospital itself is inferred only in dialogue.

It is a film about sex, love and romantic ideals. I enjoyed it though it was a bit on the long side – around two hours.

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