NZIFF ’11: Norwegian Wood

nziff ’11: Norwegian Wood
dir. Tran Anh Hung | Japan | 2010 | 133 mins.

Oh Norwegian Wood, you beautiful bore. Admittedly I had high expectations, having heard from friends that the best-selling novel on which it is based (written by the marvellous Haruki Murakami) is incredible. Adapted for the screen by Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung (Academy Award nominee for The Scent of Green Papaya), the film fails to deliver the same magic in the cinema as it (apparently) does in the pages of the book, summarising the story while still managing to be lacking in action and seemingly drawn out (it runs a tiring 133 minutes).

Set in late-’60s Tokyo (and dripping with nostalgia—see title), the story takes place with the tumultuous backdrop of students the world over getting all excited at the prospect of a revolution. Toru Watanabe’s personal life is in a similar state of commotion: after the tragic death, years earlier, of his best friend Kizuki, Watanabe forges a relationship with the dearly departed’s ex-girlfriend Naoko. Originally developing out of a shared sense of loss, their bond evolves: for Toru it becomes one of deep devotion, while for Naoko it only serves to intensify her grief. The couple’s relationship is under constant strain because of their complicated past, a situation that only becomes more challenging when Midori, an effervescent, self-confident girl (the supreme opposite of Naoko) enters Toru’s life.

Despite some breathtakingly beautiful cinematography and an interesting-enough narrative of loss, love, heartbreak, and all that jazz, the film just goes on and on, and at times feels repetitive. My advice? Save your pennies and visit your local library; I wish I had.

The New Zealand International Film Festivals began on July 14 in Auckland; they start in Wellington on July 29, then travel to Dunedin, Christchurch, Palmerston North, and Hamilton throughout August, and Nelson, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Hawke’s Bay, Greymouth, Masterton, and, finally, Kerikeri in November.

Full information on all films in the programme is at the festival’s website.

For more reviews, browse the “New Zealand International Film Festivals 2011
tag on this site, and check the Twitter hashtag #nzff.