Red Flag Releasing (RFR) | Release Date: January 6, 2012
Generally favorable reviews based on 13 Ratings
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CitizenPainJan 8, 2012
I don't know how to explain this, its a very weird film. I can tell its filled with a ton of symbolism but overall its more freaky than it is melodramatic. There seems to be incredibly weird and pointless scenes thrown in the movie. (not muchI don't know how to explain this, its a very weird film. I can tell its filled with a ton of symbolism but overall its more freaky than it is melodramatic. There seems to be incredibly weird and pointless scenes thrown in the movie. (not much of a spoiler but) theres one scene where she off-screen, gives him a handjob and you ponder how that is relevant to anything. The whole movie is a mess. I was only interested because Jonny Greenwood (guitarist of Radiohead) produced the music. There are some points the movie tries to get acorss, but its just really sloppy and weird. Expand
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babjengiJan 19, 2012
This review contains spoilers. I can understand the confusion of a lot of reviewers after having seen this movie. The thing is, the atmosphere and the feelings painted so elegantly in the book are very difficult to apply to the screen. Still, a consistent narrative would have really helped, in a similar fashion to how, say, Edward Norton's character in fight club not only had dialogue, but also an outside narrative. With how quickly the movie progressed, there was little to no time to fall in love with the characters, and fully understand Toru's love for either Naoko or Midori. Ishida Reiko is also a severely underdeveloped character in the movie, especially for how big a role she played in the book.
The entire depth of the feelings involved is lost as the director tries to move the story along quickly in order to cover major points in the book within just two hours.

Some issues that could have been addressed (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD):

The initial setting of the book where he is much older and on a plane in Germany when he begins to write the story would have been a great way to introduce the background narrative. Also, I think the last line of that first chapter really helps a lot in setting a tone for the story, as you watch his love for Naoko form and strengthen while in the back of your mind you already know she never loves him.

I feel his roommate in college could have been cut out entirely in order to make more time developing the reason Kizuki was so special to both of them, giving a greater sense of tragedy when he commits suicide.

The time before Naoko's institutionalization is also too short to let you understand why Toru would spend so much time and effort to hold onto her despite the time and distance they spend apart (not to mention that aside from the switch to winter, there's no sense of the amount of time that passes). There's a lot of movement and very little dialogue leading to the very important 20th birthday scene.

The 20th birthday scene, though accurate, looked very different in my head. I think this had to do in part with the actress who played Naoko. I feel that the actresses who played Naoko and Hatsumi should've been switched, as their descriptions in the book would have been more accurate. The lighting also made the scene look sickly rather than deeply romantic.

Midori's introduction could have had a little more lead-in. For instance, the main reason she approached him in the book is because he was always too distracted by thoughts of Naoko to call his name during roll in their class. This way, her introduction better models what was in the book, and it doesn't look like just a random "Oh, hey, yeah, we have a class together" as the only way you know they have a connection.

Midori's tragic past story is also totally ignored. Despite being as beautiful as she is, the reason she's so odd, perverted, and yet strong is because of her history. If they weren't going to reveal that, then why even include those lines? They just make her seem like a random, weird girl instead of someone who's the product of a life of misery.

The sexuality of the movie is also played in a strange manner. There is more intimacy with Naoko and less intimacy with strangers and Midori than was in the book. If they had built up their relationship before her institutionalization, they could have made their physical relationship as passive as it was in the book without sacrificing his developing affection for her. This could have saved more time for developing his relationship with Midori.

Nagasawa's character is also horribly underdeveloped, and his influences and the things he teaches Toru are entirely neglected except the last part where he give him the advice that only **** feel sorry for themselves (which later becomes part of his motivation to come back home after mourning Naoko's death).

There are a lot of other things that could have been tweaked, but all in all, compared to the vividly developed imagery of the book, the movie falls very short because of how rapidly it all progresses. While it's obvious that not all of Murakami's prose can be captured in the movie, tossing it entirely out the window just makes you feel frustrated as you watch each scene zip past without feeling anything for any of them.

tl;dr Go read the book. Though people always say the book is better than the movie, the book is a real story with all these amazing descriptions and feelings. The movie is a cold statement of the events.
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