Am I the only person on the planet not counting down the days until *hyperventilate* OH MY GOD that TOTALLY AWESOME adaptation of that TOTALLY RAD novel by that TOTALLY HIP Japanese dude comes out?
Norwegian Wood is Murakami’s most straightforward and least imaginative novel. No sheep. No incest. No Super-Frogs. No unexplained paranormal phenomena. It’s just a love story about a student who falls for two different women.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the book. I do. But I don’t think there’s anything in the story that justifies turning it into a film. Oh except it’s a bestseller. Ch-ching!
Scripts have rules. Books don’t. That’s how it works. Novels can have fourteen subplots, seventy characters, span six generations and win the Booker. A screenplay with fourteen subplots and seventy characters won’t make it off the paper. It shouldn’t make it off your laptop. It probably shouldn’t make it out of your BRAIN.
Great screen stories have a single protagonist and a clear goal. Olive wants to win Little Miss Sunshine. Indiana Jones wants to find the Holy Grail. Elliott wants to help E.T. go home.
But Toru doesn’t want to escape from prison. He doesn’t want to get the hell off an island overrun with dinosaurs. He doesn’t even want to book Aerosmith for Waynestock.
He falls in love with Naoko. Then he falls in love with Midori. He sort of falls in love with Reiko too. The End.
The problem with this is that falling for one woman after another isn’t a goal unless you’re Russell Brand. It’s a sequence of emotions which play out in Toru’s head i.e. a thought process rather than a plot. You know what this says to me?
Voiceover. Long silences. Too much time to appreciate the soundtrack by *hyperventilate* OH MY GOD that TOTALLY AWESOME dude from that TOTALLY RAD band Radiohead!
Unless Tran Anh Hung has restructured the story to give Toru an active dramatic goal, I’ve got a feeling I know exactly what kind of film we’re going to be left with.
Marie Antoinette. Otherwise known as 142 minutes which could more productively be spent eating toilet roll.
I’d like to be proved wrong but I don’t think I will be, particularly after reading an article by Philip French on the Guardian blog, which ends with the backhanded compliment that Tran Anh Hung is ‘not afraid to risk boring his audience’.
This is a bit like saying that Gordon Ramsay is not afraid to give his customers food poisoning, and about as inviting.
It suggests that, as predicted, Tran is going to go all Sofia Coppola on my ass, and therefore that Norwegian Wood is a film I am not going to enjoy.
It also suggests that there are going to be a large number of vegans in the audience who cycled to the movie and won’t be needing their glasses to watch it.
Tran may not be afraid to risk boring us, but I am afraid to risk emptying my wallet for two hours of my life I’m not going to get back.
And for the record, no, I probably won’t be watching Howl either.
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