Director: Tran Anh Hung
Verdict: Pretentious af
What to say about Norwegian Wood. Like this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the most interesting thing about the film is just how apathetic I am towards it, and if I had to go either way I think I’d say I didn’t like it. My mood swings about the film also reminded me of this year’s far superior Things to Come. In that I started off for a good half thinking it was slow, meandering, pretentious and populated by characters I didn’t want to spend time with before I warmed to it more in the second half. Things to Come is for me, what I’d call a good 3.5 star movie. Somewhere between average and pretty good, like The Jungle Book or War on Everyone. (I know I’m making some pretty controversial assessments here but damn it this is my blog, why should I care if Things to Come currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and The Jungle Book 95%). However, whilst Things To Come redeemed itself very well with interesting character development, this film just felt like a bit of an overblown, melodramatic, mess.
The premise, is interesting, and not a whole lot better than interesting. You have 3 kid friends, two boys and a girl, the girl and one boy have grown up together and done everything together and everyone knows they’re meant for each-other, then the boy dies, and the other boy, who was friends with both of them forms a burgeoning, clumsy romance. Calling it clumsy being one of the bigger understatements of the year, right next to calling Donald Trump just a misogynist. A better description would be more volatile than Vesuvius in Roman times.
Murakami, who wrote Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle would have written this book when he was 37 give or take however long it takes to write a novel, and this film has teenagers and 20 year-olds talking very frankly about sex in a way that is, frankly, risible. It really, really sounds like a man going on 40 writing dialogue for teenagers, in which they talk very frankly about sex. It’s actually a bit pervy. Maybe it’s the translation, maybe it’s cultural differences, but in my uni film soc we laughed at plenty a moment we were not meant to. You could make the argument we’re immature uni students aren’t au fait with our own sexuality and secure in talking about it in such a frank, uncompromising way, but no you’d be wrong and a fool to say so. The answer is that we are this age, and we know it’s ridiculous. It sounds like what an adult thinks we talk like and they’re wrong and it’s actually kind of irritating.
Maybe I’d forgive it this misdemeanour if I just enjoyed the rest of it more. The director clearly has an eye for composition and the way in which he uses colouring and Japan’s natural beauty, which it does have in spades, is very visually striking. However, the directing does also have a degree of pretentiousness. Some of the camera movements, long takes, that kind of thing seemed really for the sake of it and didn’t enhance the story telling one little bit, whereas something like this year’s The Girl with All the Gifts had all those elaborate camera movements but they were for a purpose within the story. It’s also boring as sin for a good act and a half. Actually dash that sin’s very exciting in a risque way, this film tries to be and is just turgid and badly paced. I mean you might enjoy it, I mean it doesn’t have bad reviews but it doesn’t have particularly good ones either and a 50% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t bode well for the average film goer, so yeah you might enjoy but it’s not likely and I definitely didn’t, not much anyway.