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Ken'ichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi, Kiko Mizuhara, Reika Kirishima, Kengo Kora ... see more see more... , Eriko Hatsune , Tetsuji Tamayama

Tokyo, the late 1960s...Students around the world are uniting to overthrow the establishment and Toru Watanabe's personal life is similarly in tumult. At heart, he is deeply devoted to his first love,... read more read more... Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman. But their complex bond has been forged by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Watanabe lives with the influence of death everywhere. That is, until Midori, a girl who is everything that Naoko is not - outgoing, vivacious, supremely self-confident - marches into his life and Watanabe must choose between his past and his future. -- (C) Official Site

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50% liked it

6,077 ratings


74% liked it

61 critics

Unrated, 2 hr. 13 min.

Directed by: Anh Hung Tran, No Zin Soo

Release Date: January 6, 2012

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DVD Release Date: May 15, 2012

Stats: 481 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (481)

  • January 5, 2013
    A lovely adaptation of Murakami's astonishing novel. Norwegian Wood is the Murakami book that I think shouldn't be used as an introduction to his worlk. So seeing it as a film I can perfectly understand the film's mixed reviews. This isn't the most approachable film in the world.... read more At times it has a strong story going on, but then becomes more of a visual feast, before jumping long distances of time while trying to maintain the chemistry between characters. It is a story of change, loss, and moving on, with a sense of emptiness that is very haunting in the most meditative kind of way. Matsuyama and Kikuchi are a gorgeous couple both in terms of their looks, and the passion they clearly hold for each other. The film's biggest drawback is the sporadic use of voiceover, which can only hint at the involving narrative it is taken from. With its absence throughout the majority of the film, the fairly blunt dialogue and explorations of sexuality can seem in your face. More of a visual companion to the novel than a stand alone film, it's still a very interesting piece which will hopefully inspire more adaptations of Murakami's works.
  • December 29, 2012
    I can't believe the ratings for this movie are so low! I found it quite lovely and very sad. I was in tears by the end of it.
    Filmed beautifully with effective soundtrack. I really liked both of the damaged females here, particularly Midori. Hard to explain the story, it's not h... read moreard to follow, but sometimes hard to understand the characters motivations.
    I haven't read the book, so I don't know if that's why the negative reviews, but on its own, this is an excellent movie.
  • August 8, 2011
    "The grief over a death of someone you loved can never be healed. We can only live with the sorrow and learn something out of it."

    Upon hearing the song "Norwegian Wood," Toru (Matsuyama) remembers back to his life in the 1960s, when his friend Kizuki killed himself and h... read moree grew close to Naoko, Kizuki's girlfriend. As the two try, in very different ways, to contend with their grief, Toru forms a bond with another woman, Midori.


    Its hard to review a film like this when you've been looking forward to it so much. While its not my favorite of his books, I'm a big Haruki Murakami fan, and I love Anh Hung Tran's earlier films - I thought this was potentially a match made in heaven.

    The film is good - very good. Just not the great film I'd hoped it would be. There are wonderful scenes and great acting, and the cinematography is beautiful. But I think there are some major flaws. The flow of the film is oddly disjointed at times - while the book is very much written from the perspective of an older, wiser man looking back at his immature youth, the film seems unsure of its own perspective. The voice-over is poorly structured, seemingly aimed at filling in narrative gaps rather than giving us the older narrators overview. Oddly for Tran, a director who has been extremely minimalist in the past, some scenes are far too overwrought, not helped by the intrusive and anachronistic score. The casting is also uneven - Rinko Kikuchi is a marvelous actress, but is simply too old to play a convincing 20 year old. The character of Reiko is also played by an actress much younger than the character in the book, but the part hasn't been changed accordingly. That said, Kenichi Matsuyama as Toru and in particular Kiko Mizuhara as Midori are terrific.

    I really don't know how someone who doesn't know the book will react to this. I suspect that if you are a romantic at heart, you will like it, even if you find it a bit overlong and some of the characters too thinly drawn. Fans of the book will mostly love it as it is quite faithful (maybe too faithful) to the story.
  • May 1, 2011

    I┤ve never seen such a terrible and painful adaptation like this Norwegian Wood. Haruki Murakami┤s novel, even if full of literary references, is still an easy or accessible book what, I knew, could be used for the best or for the worst. The thing is that what I expe... read morected of worst was a sort of pretentious indie film and not that Anh Hung Tran would kill the main points and characteristics of the story to transform it in a beautiful and acceptable garbage. Who claims that the film is faithful to the novel, probably have not read it, unless the English translation is really that different from the original in Japanese.*

    If you haven┤t read Murakami┤s novel, you can like this film. If you did, you┤ll feel like killing youself and right in the first scenes. Nagazawa would never, never, say that "Life is short. There's no sense in wasting time on books in a sense of time is absent."

    When I did finally meet the one person in my world who had read Gatsby, he and I became friends because of it. His name was Nagasawa. (...) He was a far more voracious reader than me, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least 30 years.
    "That's the only kind of book I can trust," he said. "It's not that I don't believe in contemporary literature," he added, "but I don't want to waste valuable time reading any book that has not had the baptism of time. Life is too short."
    "What kind of authors do you like?" I asked, speaking in respectful tones to this man two years my senior.
    "Balzac, Dante, Joseph Conrad, Dickens," he answered without hesitation.

    How to take it serious and keep watching a film that visibly pretends nothing but please the mass? Perhaps, everything is allowed in an adaptation, but to completely change the story is going too far. Nagazawa is only one of the many faults. Naoko and Midori are played by very beautiful girls, but Midori is too far away of the "complexity" of her character. The fact that she is always smiling when Naoko has her dark moments doesn┤t say anything at all. Simplistic justifications, simplistic and na´ve love stories when Toru┤s relationship with both Naoko and Midori and even with life itself was much more complex. Oh, and I will not even mention Reiko that simple and totally loses all her importance here.

    Shallow chords and a trivial course.

    *I just got a PDF copy of the English translation and now I can say with conviction that no, it┤s not that different from the one I read. Those who think that the film is faithful to the book, or did not read it or really don┤t have any sense of anything.

    ** The Beatle┤s Norwegian Wood was Naoko┤s favorite song that Reiko only played when she asked her to because the song put Naoko very sad.

  • January 27, 2011
    For those who don't know, this movie is an adaptation of the book by Haruki Murakami. Since I'm a big fan of his work, I had to see this of course.

    The atmosphere and the dialogues were very Murakamiesque :p The start of the movie was a little artificial (for lack of a better wo... read morerd), and it couldn't really shake that of as the movie progressed. This in contrast to the beautiful shots of the landscape, and the awesome 70's interior (I love that shit). It's strength was in the quiet scenes.

    I'll try to explain it. Murakami has a the talent to make very peculiar events and people to come off very natural and matter-of-factual, it's almost impossible to translate that to the screen. Some dialogues and scenes were so blunt and explicit that it became awkward, awkward in a sense that it was almost funny, and that wasn't the intended effect.

    I'm not quite sure if it was due to bad acting or directing, but I have to complement the effort. Personally I think the movie Tony Takitani is still the best adaptation (of one of his short stories) so far.

    3,5 stars is not to bad, but I expected more of it.

  • May 6, 2013
    In "Norwegian Wood," Toru(Ken'ichi Matsuyama) is best friends with Kizuki(Kengo Kora). With Kizuki and Naoko(Rinko Kikuchi) being well-nigh inseparable, Toru does not mind playing third wheel to them. After Kikuchi's suicide, Toru migrates to the side of Nagasawa(Tetsuji Tamaya... read morema), a ladies' man, in search of more knowledge about the opposite sex.

    Enter Midori(Kiko Mizuhara).

    On the one hand, "Norwegian Wood" could be considered a thoughtful meditation on young people's first encounter with death, finding out the hard way that there is no way to compete with the dead. On the other hand, the characters talk a great game when it comes to sex but are less able when it comes down to doing the deed or falling in love for that matter. Just as Toru uses books to keep the chaos of the outside world at bay, others use recent trauma to keep emotions at bay. Sadly, this movie is simply too long for such an intimate story, especially with its many digressions that help to slow the pace to a crawl in places.
  • fb721890245
    November 9, 2012
    Lots of haters for this film out there but I thorough enjoyed it. The theme unfortunately is death, death, death and our human responses to it made all the more poignant with the fact that those impacted are so early in their own lives. Genuinely touching.
  • February 18, 2012
    This movie will divide the audience with its slow pace and dreamy, protracted love scenes and especially purposely created imbalance between the main characters. But, I'll suggest to be patient, and that patience will be rewarded with almost forgotten doomy romanticism which is ... read morereflected in attenuated, beautifully photographed scenes of tragic ending love lives.

    Main character Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama), an earnest and somehow na´ve Japanese college student, and Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), the onetime sweetheart of his best friend, Kizuki, who committed suicide, are meeting after seven years... they celebrate Naoko's 20th birthday, and her loss of virginity is an event deepened by their shared but unspoken grief. Everything seems fine after that until Watanabe brings up Kizuki's name for the first time, and Naoko collapses in tears and confesses that her sexual unresponsiveness to Kizuki, whom she had known since childhood, was a source of anguish. She appears to blame herself for his suicide... and is solemnly fixated on the obsessional, morbid aspects of her youthful passion.

    Written and directed by Tran Anh Hung ("Cyclo," "The Scent of Green Papaya"), this is an adaptation of Haruki Murakami's novel and in this movie, like in the novel, the story is narrated by Watanabe, who looks back 17 years to his days as a college freshman. I have to say that the loose narrative structure of a dreamy and poetic personal journal that is more a series of reflections than a cohesive story, gives the director freedom of expression but sometimes is without the structure and vanishes in the mood of seething emotional turmoil... OK - it's not a perfect movie, but very enjoyable and different from most of the movies you'll see this year... spare over 2 hours to watch this tragedy of love!
  • July 14, 2011
    To catch only occasional brilliance in this film adaptation of one of my favourite Haruki Murakami novels is undoubtedly disappointing. It is by no means the fault of the cast, who adeptly impersonates their characters and displays the heavy-hearted emotions; rather, the film's e... read morediting lacked focus and flow. Director Anh Hung Tran use of wide, panning shots of beautiful imagery is visually stimulating yet there is a disconnection between these scenes. Still, "Norwegian Wood"'s lessons on love, responsibility, life and death, deserves a chance, even a second one when the right time comes along.
  • fb1245361650
    November 12, 2011
    A harrowing loss begins this epic tale of harrowing redemption. Toru's (Ken'ichi Matsuyama's) friend Naoko (played pitch-perfectly by Rinko Kikuchi) seems lost after her best friend's suicide, and it forces Toru (called by his last name throughout the film) to become a young adul... read moret in a microcosm of strange and contrasting ideas about sex and love. The film isn't trying to be quick or quickly explained. Take it on its own meditative terms, and it becomes a beautiful portrait of being a young adult and falling in love during difficult times. Powerful, deep, but light and funny enough to keep a smile on your face. Personally, this is my favorite film of 2011 so far. I LOVE THIS FILM!!!

Critic Reviews

Stanley Kauffmann
June 19, 2013
Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

The acting in the film is key. Every moment by Ken'ichi Matsuyama as Watanabe and Rinko Kikuchi as Naoko is valid yet seems distilled by memory rather than presented raw. Full Review

Richard Nilsen
March 15, 2012
Richard Nilsen, Arizona Republic

We cover years at a bound, but when we light, we tend to spend long, lingering moments through the camera's loving eye. This is a beautiful film to see. Full Review

Rick Groen
March 2, 2012
Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

Tran has drained the life right out of the novel. Full Review

Bruce Demara
March 1, 2012
Bruce Demara, Toronto Star

It becomes a film that, like its characters, remains elusive in its motivations and therefore detached from its audience. Full Review

G. Allen Johnson
February 2, 2012
G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle

A master of mood and visuals, Tran proves an inspired choice. Full Review

Roger Ebert
January 19, 2012
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

It's sweet all the way up, wavers in dread and slides down to doom. Full Review

Lisa Schwarzbaum
January 12, 2012
Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

This lush, eventually torpid adaptation of Haruki Murakami's more nuanced 1987 cult-favorite novel considers youthful love, loss, and eros... Full Review

Alonso Duralde
January 6, 2012
Alonso Duralde, TheWrap

A visually stunning and moving piece of storytelling bolstered by searing performances and a standout score by Jonny Greenwood. Full Review

Andrew O'Hehir
January 6, 2012
Andrew O'Hehir,

Maybe this was the project Tran has been waiting for. I rate this the best film of his non-prolific career by far. Full Review

Stephanie Merry
January 6, 2012
Stephanie Merry, Washington Post

"Norwegian Wood" is a restrained portrait of liminal moments, a coming-of-age tale that feels more like a moody ghost story than a neatly contained chronicle of beginnings. Full Review

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