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Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood is a film based off the Japanese novel of the same name following Toru Watanabe's recollections of his life in the 1960s. The story begins shortly after the suicide of his best friend Kizuki as Watanabe enters college. As his freshmen year progresses he draws close to two very different young women--Naoko, Kizuki's ex-girlfriend and Midori, a fellow student at his university.
In a certain perspective Toru Watanabe's choices of Naoko and Midori can been seen as representations of the past and future, respectively. Naoko is still haunted by sorrow of their friend's suicide; she seems frozen in a sense of stasis as she retreats from the bustling life and shifting politics of Tokyo for an asylum outside of Kyoto. The seasons shift, but her routine seems to repeat and her letters linger on the same topics. In contrast, Midori is vivacious and vibrant. She's also an unknown quantity to Toru--he's surprised when she reveals she has a boyfriend and shocked as she publicly discusses a fantasy. Like Watanabe's own future, she's unpredictable--sometimes bright and welcoming, other times cold and distant. Watching his interactions with both young women one wonders if Watanabe will choose to remain in his melancholy past, or embrace his nebulous future.
Of course to rely too heavily on the idea of either women as projections of Watanabe's personal choices is to reduce both complex female characters to tropes. Midori isn't as carefree as she at first seems, nor is Naoko lacking progression or change from her past. In the end things remain ambiguous with Watanabe. What is clear is the nature of love and loss--often exquisitely punctuated by sweeping shots of nature. In moments of passion and turmoil we are treated to snow-covered landscapes, powerful winds, and even the crescendo of waves. From a style standpoint the costuming is pretty amazing--I'd love to channel Midori some this fall...