Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Red Flag Releasing (RFR)

Release date (US): January 6th, 2012
Certificate (US): TBC

Running time: 133 minutes
Original language: Japanese with English subtitles

Director: Anh Hung Tran

Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, Kenichi Matsuyama, Kengo Kora, Kiko Mizuhara

“Despite your best efforts, people are going to be hurt when it’s time for them to be hurt.”
~ Haruki Murakami

I first read Norwegian Wood many years ago in my youth but it was always that line that puzzled me the most. I suppose I was too young at the time, naive and idealistic. How time changes that. Now in my 30’s, and as I watched Tran Anh Hung adaptation of this remarkable novel, seeing it come to life, I realised what I should have understood so long ago.


Its story is one of loss and heartbreak, set in 1960’s Tokyo. While students are uniting to overthrow the establishment, Toru Watanabe’s (Kenichi Matsuyama) own life is in similar disarray.

Haunted by the sudden suicide of his best friend, Kizuki (Kengo Kora), he tries to start a new life and put the past to rest. Until one day he runs into the girl Kizuki was seeing before he died, Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), quiet, shy, introspective and exquisitely beautiful.

Her re-appearance brings back memories of their shared times together and rather unexpectedly, they begin to fall in love. Feeling as if she has betrayed Kizuki, Naoko disappears just as suddenly as she appeared in Toru’s life, leaving him heartbroken once more.

Norwegian Wood

Then he meets Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), who is everything Naoko is not, although just as beautiful.

With one representing his past and the other his future, Turo is unable to choose.

Tran Anh Hung captures the mood of 1960’s Tokyo using the backdrop of student riots to contrast with Toru’s love story. In this way we see beauty and pain juxtaposed.

It’s not only rich visually but also auditorily with an instrumental score by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. Dramatic, lush and pensive, it adds much to a film which is at times sparse in dialogue, but always teetering between light and dark.

Norwegian Wood plays with contrasts in every way possible to highlight Toru’s conflict. In doing so it creates a space in which chaos and calm co-exist but if you stand for a moment and feel the air and hear the wind, you might come to realise a few truths that youth blinds us to.


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