(Picture from here)
Norwegian Wood. It was originally a song by The Beatles which was then turned into a novel by Haruki Murakami and finally, into a movie adaptation by Anh Hung Tran. Definitely powerful as a song and the novel by Murakami is one of my favorites.
This is going to be a long review. And I definitely suggest playing the song while you read along since it definitely sets the mood for the story. By the way, there might be a few spoilers but I try not to say anything outright (that is to say what happens in the story from start to end), this is more like a taste of it all to tempt you into investing some time on it yourself.
First I want to talk about the song Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) by The Beatles. A kind of neat, kind of eerie fact about the song is it was released in 1965 on the 3rd of December - the day and month I was born many years later! The song itself almost takes you to a windy, summery day where you're lounging in the shade listening to the silence of nature. Well, that's where it takes me anyway.
The song itself is hardly as romantic as it sounds and if you truly listen to the lyrics they are pretty unromantic and reminds me of what might be a one-night stand sort of feeling (I personally don't know what a one-night stand feels like so this is how I would imagine it to feel). Looking into the actual meaning of the lyrics, according to John Lennon (who wrote most of it) it was meant to talk about an affair he was having without alerting his wife at the time, Cynthia. So I guess we're on the right track here that the song is unromantic! Still, with the sitar it makes for a great song if you don't remember the true meaning of the lyrics.
Going on to the book, Norwegian Wood was written by Haruki Murakami and published in 1987. The English version was published in 2000. It was probably around this time that my father gave me Norwegian Wood and other books by Murakami for my birthday. I remember him (my father that is) telling me not to judge Murakami by Norwegian Wood, that it was one novel that wasn't his style entirely. Still he advised it was the best one to start with before attempting to read any others.
I loved Norwegian Wood despite it being a tragedy. I'm not sure if anyone has ever noticed this but in my description on my Twitter I wrote '...and if you know 'Naoko' then you know the part of me I hide away'. I could relate to her, not in the sense I'm exactly like her as she is in the story but there are several traits about her that I hold myself. So the book for me was sad in that I connected a lot more than I thought I would with Naoko, who is one of the main characters - sorry, I just threw her in without introducing the characters.
The main character is Toru Watanabe (mostly referred to as Watanabe in the novel if I recall and the movie, because in Japan you're mainly referred to by your last name over your first name - long story I don't care much to launch into) and the other important characters (they're all important you see) are Naoko, Kizuki, Midori, Reiko, Nagasawa, Hatsumi and because he is such a memorable character and I loved that he was credited by this name in the movie as well - "Storm Trooper".
Not that that was entirely necessary at least you get an inkling of some of the characters you might encounter in the story.
There is something about how Murakami writes that is evident throughout all of his books, he is very particular about certain details and there is always a double meaning to his stories, sometimes even a triple meaning. His stories are the sort you can only handle when you're feeling very happy and optimistic and positive etc. I always advise people of this because if you read his books when you're depressed and sad and pessimistic and negative yadda yadda it's certain to wreck you further. I've done the latter and found myself in a worse state than I was originally so big huge warning: read only when feeling happy, because even if you're not happy afterward at least it won't be so bad!
Norwegian Wood is different from his other novels in that it's a love story. His other books? Definitely not love stories. Norwegian Wood also propelled him to fame which apparently was something he was dismayed about. Murakami is peculiar in that way, he writes but not to be famous and he detests being famous with a passion. He's eccentric but a beautiful writer, translating a lot of his "crazy" thoughts into stories.
Trying to write a review of his book makes me ashamed because I truly don't know how to adequately put into words how amazing Norwegian Wood is. I think I'll stop here because otherwise I'll put myself in further shame. Just know that it's the one book from all his others that the majority would like.
About the movie...well, here's a trailer (with English subtitles, luckily for you):
If you're not familiar with how Japanese movies can be then you won't much appreciate the style of cinematography (which, now that I think about it, is almost similar to indie films) but it is well done and certainly captures the feel of the book in certain parts of it. This movie is definitely one you can only watch after you have familiarized yourself with the book first.
Plot wise it seemed slightly choppy, I think there was a lot from the novel that wasn't put into the movie (obviously this always happens) and that made the movie a lot more erratic. The book holds so many details from Toru's perspective that you unfortunately have no access to in the movie although there was an attempt at times to throw in some of his thoughts but to me it seemed like a poor attempt at trying to cover the long silences. However that said it was adapted as best it could be since the characters are such that (aside from Midori perhaps) not much is said but more done.
I was a bit disappointed with how Naoko was portrayed in the movie, or maybe it's because my favorite quote from the whole book was not included so it left me in a huff for the rest of the movie. Toru (played by Kenichi Matsuyama, squee if you recognize him as L!) and Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) were the best cast, the rest were good as well but I guess Toru and Midori stuck out the most for me as they carried their characters true to the novel in the movie.
Perhaps I should have given this review a lot more thought because it's quite disjointed, or maybe it's due to the fact that there's a song, novel and movie involved. Regardless, I should have thought on it further instead of giving it one sleep's worth.
Overall I was pleased with the movie, having waited a while to watch it since it was initially released but at the same time now I'm yearning for the book version, I feel as though I need to reread the novel so I can remember the words instead of the movie. If any other books by Murakami are made into films I doubt I'd watch them though, Norwegian Wood is definitely the exception as it is simple enough to be on screen but the rest are too complex.
Maybe one day I'll come back and redo this review. For now, I suppose a disjointed review is fitting for such a story. Hopefully some of you get around to reading the book though, I promise it's an interesting story. Japanese authors are my favorite, you just don't get that quality of writing with English authors anymore. Same with movies and songs really.