Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Devindra Hardawar
I’m not sure how I missed the news that Haruki Murakami’s tremendous novel Norwegian Wood was being adapted to film, or that one of my favorite little-known directors, Tran Anh Hung (Cyclo, The Scent of Green Papaya), was helming the project. If so, my mind would have been slightly more prepared to absorb the casting news we’ve received today.
Kenichi Matsuyama, best known as L in the live action Death Note films, has been cast as Toru Watanabe, the main character in the film. More interesting to me (and I assume all of you) is the addition of Rinko Kikuchi, who has made her mark with Babel and The Brother’s Bloom, has been cast as Naoko, the emotionally trouble love interest who causes all sorts of heartache for Toru. The book is essentially a tale of Toru’s love life in his younger days, but as with everything Murakami it’s also so much more.
I count the novel as one of my favorite books, and after countless readings I can’t think of a more perfect casting choice for Naoko than Kikuchi. The story pretty much revolves around her, and Kikuchi has demonstrated that she can play emotionally fragile characters very well in Babel.
The notion of Tran Anh Hung adapting Murakami is sort of mind blowingly perfect. Both are famous for presenting vivid images to their audiences via their respective mediums, and both also love to incorporate Western pop culture into their work. I know Hung may not exactly be a household name, even for cinephiles, but all you have to do is check out his film Cyclo to recognize his talent.
If you want a quick example, check out this iconic scene from Cyclo (which remains my favorite use of Radiohead ever in a film):
Take a look at the trailer for Cyclo to get a better sense what the film is about, and rent it on Netflix! Anh has also been working on an international thriller starring Josh Hartnett and Elias Koteas, which is unfortunately titled I Come with the Rain. You can find a rough trailer of the film (meant for distributors) here.
Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood adaptation is currently scheduled for a fall 2010 release.