Norwegian Wood, part VI - the movie

My Norwegian Wood project should be over - I had given it three weeks, after all. But it took a heck of a long time to get my hands on the film. First I turned to the local rental place. They had it, according to their database, but as they were remodeling the shop, it was going to take them a week to get it from the storage it was in while the carpenters were at work. Fine. I returned a week and a half later, and they couldn´t find the film, though they insisted they had it. "Call me when you find it," I said, leaving my number, and they said sure. No call. A week later I called on them again, and no, they hadn´t yet unpacked all the films. "Call me when you find it," I said to this other person, who promised dearly to, and left my number again. No call. I gather they don´t really care if I ever come back, and guess what? I will not.

So, lucky me, I found an old rental copy on Ebay. I think it was less than thirty crowns, postage and all. When I tried to watch it, the disc was empty. By now it seemed the universe was against me, but I decided to persist and ordered it from amazon. By the time I got it, Christmas was almost upon us and I put off watching it some more.

Today I found it in a pile of things to do, and watched it - finally. It is written and directed by Tran Anh Hung (who is Vietnamese, not Japanese), based on the novel by Haruki Murakami, which is one of the best novels I ever read, probably, in hindsight. I haven´t heard of any of the actors, but then I watch precious little film these days, and even less Japanese film, so I wouldn´t have expected to. They all did a very good job, though.

Of course, one can not expect a film based on a book to be anything like it, that would be silly. Still, one can not help comparing. The film has that same still mood, but it´s also very silent, where the characters in the book are all very talkative. Except perhaps Watanabe himself, but someone has to listen. The film focuses very much on the love story, and the characters I enjoyed the most are nearly completely written out, or so much changed that it´s hard to get a grip on them. I was particularly miffed to see salt-of-the-Earth, funny Reiko turned into a fragile, shy, and boring failed housewife.

The film also, naturally, felt very much more Japanese than the book, which I thought could have been set in Stockholm, if you had just changed the names of the characters. And one thing you can do so much better in film is communicate emotion. The book didn´t make me cry, as I recall, but I cried floods when I saw the film; it´s visually very powerful when Watanabe sits with his broken heart in front of the raging sea.

I´m not sure I would have read the book if I had seen the film first. Good thing I didn´t. And I´m not sure I can recommend the film whole-heartedly. I´m glad I saw it, though. Thing is, I don´t really know what I would have made of it if I hadn´t read the book first. The husband thinks he saw a film about hormonal, troubled teenagers, and says he enjoyed Tran´s understated way of telling the story, which he finds "un-American". (I suppose that the Hollywood way of making movies has provided us with the template by which we judge others.) I guess that´s what I would have thought, too.


  1. i don't have this book yet (tho it's on my to-buy list because of your posts). the film is $17 at amazon. i'll probably keep planning on reading the book first, but i'll add the film to the wait-list at amazon. having the ability to keep things in that buy-later category was genius! i would forget about them if they didn't stay there lol

    1. Isn´t that wish list a wonderful thing? I work that list hard; I have bought so many books in the past that my interest cooled in after a few weeks - better to cool down while they are still on the wish list. Also, this year I have given myself a 45 dollar/300 kr/month restriction (money which can´t be pushed forward), to help lower that stack of books-to-read!

    2. i feel your pain lol! i have stacks of books & dvds here i'm working my way through. i started filling up that amazon wish list, saying, "i'll buy these as soon as my floor is clear."

    3. It´s nice to know there are people who understand... :-D