Adapted from Haruki Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood is beautifully shot but lacks emotional impact. Set in late 1960s Tokyo, it focuses on Toru (Matsuyama), a young student negotiating a series of tentative romances against a backdrop of political unrest and tragedy. Delving into a range of psychological neuroses, an eventual three-part romance heads toward tragedy.
Norwegian Wood’s trailer suggested an epic love story set against the music of the Beatles. These elements are present, but Norwegian Wood is a curiously flat film. Focusing on incidental detail, and some superb color schemes across Tokyo and the Japanese countryside, Ahn Hung captures the look if not the emotion of Murakami’s novel.
Sluggish pacing, and a tendency towards repetition, make Norwegian Wood fall the wrong side of art-film accessibility. It might have been something to do with my own difficulties in reconciling the frequently dark but melancholic prose style of Murakami with Norwegian Wood’s drawn-out study of personal tragedy. While this is offset in some respects by moments of black humour, Norwegian Wood is a missed opportunity. Given the source material, and with Mark Lee Ping Bin’s cinematography, the film’s lack of a substantial emotional connections fails to lift it from a well-crafted but empty drama.