Heads Up: Isn't it good? Murakami gets the movie treatment

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

Norwegian Wood, the film adaptation of Haruki Murakami's 1987 novel about those classic themes: love, sex, death, and liking The Beatles. The UK premiere opens the Pan-Asia Film Festival in March.

Elevator pitch

Murakami goes to the movies.

Prime Movers

Vietnamese-French director Anh Hung Tran, whose 1993 debut feature film, The Scent of the Green Papaya, was nominated for an Oscar. Tran is also responsible for the screenplay, which garnered Murakami's seal of approval, no less.

The Stars

Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Babel, takes on the role of Naoko, while Korean-American model Kiko Mizuhara makes her acting debut.

The Early Buzz

Pop-culture website Slant deems Norwegian Wood "too much of an emo orgy for some, though there's no escaping the swoony stateliness of the film's melancholy". Screen Daily's Mark Adams predicts that "fans of the book and lovers of elegantly staged arthouse cinema will adore its faithfulness to both story and sense of place", although Variety warns, "Murakami readers may be disappointed that the sexual content is nowhere near as explicit as the book's."

Insider Knowledge

Although the film, like the novel, is in Japanese, Anh Hung Tran doesn't actually speak the language. He wrote the script first in French, had it translated into English, and finally into Japanese.

It's great that...

The soundtrack comes courtesy of Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood, building on the success he had with There Will Be Blood. His original score is performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Emperor Quartet.

It's a shame that...

Tran wasn't more eager with the scissors – reviewers are already grumbling that, at 133 minutes, it could do with a good edit.

Hit Potential

Being based on such a popular book should ensure an audience, and news that the adaptation remain "faithful" enough to please even the author may tempt Murakami geeks into cinemas. But a lengthy, ponderously paced foreign-language film is still unlikely to prove blockbuster material.

The Details

Join Hung, Greenwood and Kikuchi in a discussion at Asia House, London W1 (asiahouse.org), on 1 March. Norwegian Wood premieres at the Princess Anne Theatre, London W1 (bafta.org), on 2 March.