Thursday, 31 March 2011

Noruwei no mori

a.k.a. Norwegian Wood

Tran Anh Hung, 2010. BBFC rating: 15.

Being a teenager is rubbish. This film gets that right - though really these kids should, by the age they've reached (which seems to be about 19), have at least begun to grow out of the stage of sulking and sobbing. On the contrary, however, the kids in Norwegian Wood spend their time moping, crying, walking melancholically around fields, killing themselves, and having awkward, miserable sex. Sometimes they combine these activities. 

And they're the lucky ones. At least adolescent angst is interesting to the angstee: what's in it for the audience? Well, we get some pretty cinematography. But that's about it. There's the occasional laugh, no doubt unintended by the director, as when our hero stands on a cliff screaming at the sky to the backing of a screeching orchestra. (Yes, really.) The score is awful - grating, hammy, and distracting. Apparently it was put together by Jonny Greenwood off of Radiohead, which makes it rather a fall from grace for him.

Mind you, the film is actually rather reminiscent in tone of early Radiohead. Take "Street Spirit" with its adolescent, portentous and surely in retrospect embarrassing lyrics ("cracked eggs, dead birds, scream as they fight for life": 'cause if you're 14, you know that life's really all about death), which is tonally similar to this. There are two major differences, however. First, "Street Spirit" is shimmering and evocative, unlike either the music or the narrative of Norwegian Wood. And, more importantly, it lasts just over four minutes. Norwegian Wood lasts over thirty times that long. Avoid.