Norwegian Wood: My Second Look

Haruki Murakami is a recent discovery. I have read only two of his novels because to be honest, his books are rare to absent in second hand bookstores and the new ones are quite pricey in this country. Reading is one thing I enjoy doing but I have a ceiling price for books. Anyway, that is another story.

Norwegian Wood is the first Murakami novel I read and enjoyed. It was one of those books that leave one pondering even days after turning the last page for different reasons. Some find the characters relate-able, others abhor them. Personally, a lot of emotions were stirred in me because like Watanabe, I have a friend who took his own life.



The film adaptation was directed Tran Anh Hung and stars three of my favorite actors – Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi and Kiko Mizuhara. It was a slow moving but beautifully shot film that run for 128 minutes.

Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) and Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) shared the pain of losing Kazuki (Kengo Kora). He was his best friend and she his girlfriend. On her twentieth birthday, they slept with each other and not long after, Naoko had to move to an asylum due to her depression. In between visits to Naoko, Watanabe hangs out and gets attracted to Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) – a typical college girl who has issues of her own.

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Overall, the visuals were really beautiful. There were some shots which were a tad too dark and some scenes which were too quiet but they highlighted the inner turmoil the characters experienced. Set in the 60’s the fashion, the feel were delightfully captured. The countryside settings were just a feast for the eyes. The actors, as expected, delivered. I would love to have Kenichi Matsuyama look at me that way.  (Sorry that’s the fan girl speaking).

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I don’t know if they were done for the sake of symbolism but I just don’t feel right about those scenes they did too much walking. I know Watanabe and Naoko walked a lot but Matsuyama and Kikuchi are almost running that I can almost hear them catching their breaths and sometimes I think I can almost spot a bead or two of sweat on their foreheads.


Another concern was Reiko’s character. I liked her in the book but I guess the screenwriter thought differently. I was okay with them not showing her back story, it can do without it. However, if I remember it right, she was close to Watanabe. They exchanged a few good stories and had light conversations with Naoko around. In the film, the friendship was not established so it appeared that she just asked for sex out of the blue, like some sex starved weirdo. In my opinion, that part was essential because sometimes when people share grief, they tend to hold on to the nearest person and sex is a way of expressing that. Like what happened with Naoko and Watanabe, if I interpret it correctly, Reiko and Watanabe had similar circumstances. It just feels like an injustice is done to a likeable character.


Some of those who read the book were not really satisfied with the film. However, I believe that reading the book and watching the movie are different experiences. Tran Anh Hung showcased a visually arresting story on the screen while Haruki Murakami gave us a coming of age/love story with magical words. I could say that I enjoyed both to a different degree. Norwegian Wood will be one of those favorites that I will forget but easily remember with the right flash bulbs.

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