Notes: Into the Norwegian Wood

The film Norwegian Wood directed by Tran Anh Hung offers an interpretation of Haruki Murakami’s novel by the same name. Due to the similarity in name, main narrative, and character names a comparison is almost inevitable. The similarities in the overarching narrative of Kizuki’s suicide, Naoko’s sanatorium term and ensuing suicide, and Watanabe’s relationship with Naoko, Reiko, and Midori, but there are also significant differences between the two. For example, in Murakami’s 1987 novel there are more instances of interior reflection whereas in the film there are interspersed voice-overs that come on that go along with transition scenes, such as the one where Watanabe tells the audience that Naoko killed herself while the audience sees the passing image of Naoko’s dangling, frost-bitten, and oxygen deprived feet. Another aspect is the floating camera that endlessly pan, tracks, and zooms, which cannot be portrayed in the written form.

In a way, this floating camera implies a notion of a subtle instability and a sense of nervousness in that not only is the camera not still but the elements within the frame are also not still by way of the camera. In other words, that which is within the frame as well as the image itself is constantly moving. This sense of instability can also be read through the intertextuality of the film. First the film refers to Murakami’s novel, which is itself also a reference to the Beatles’ song Norwegian Wood. Through this process of referencing other sources as a point of origin, the notion of the origin is put into question. The instability and floating also comment on idea of boundaries between texts. Norwegian Wood begins as a song. It comes to refer to a written text, and now it refers to a movie that also reflects back on its beginning by including the song in the soundtrack. The distinction between sound, written word, and image are then mixed together and constantly referring to one another.

Looking deeper at the intertextuality of the film in connection to authorship and the idea of a nation, the notion of boundaries is further brought into question. Norwegian Wood as a text after the film no longer can be considered as having a singular author or director in that it already refers to another author. Moreover, these authors are from varying places. From a global British pop sensation, Japanese writer, to a Vietnamese born French director, the categorization of the national according to performer, author, or director is impossible. It is further complicated when film refers uses the narrative to refer back to the novel and directly cites the Beatles’ song within its soundtrack. Moreover, the novel itself also cites the song as it is what causes Watanabe to reminisce about his youth. Thus, the constant reflections, citations, and referrals back to the other Norwegian Wood are manifested through not only the floating camera hinting at a feeling of instability but also through the intertextuality throughout the film.

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