The story follows the friendships and love life of its protagonist Toru Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) as a teenager and later as a student at Tokyo University. The period of his studies falls into 1968 when as in many capitals in Europe the students in Tokyo rise up against their government and figures of authority. The student revolt however is only the backdrop to the story that concentrates on Watanabe's relationship with the women in his life. In his school days his close friends are a couple are Kizuki and Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi). They are childhood sweethearts that spend every minute of their free time together. At 17 Kizuki commits suicide for no apparent reason. As Naoko tries to get over Kizuki's death Toru and Naoko become ever closer. But Naoko finds it impossible to cope and goes to a sanatorium in the forest. Toru Watanabe meets Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) at university an outgoing self confident girl, a greater contrast to the sensitive, shy Naoko can hardly be imagined.
Norwegian Wood is an interesting beautifully photographed and directed film. Toru Watanabe is quite credible as the somewhat, withdrawn good looking student who attracts interesting women and is sexually confident in his emotionally quite taxing relationships. Excellent acting performance also from the other members of the cast.
The film is based on Haruko Murakami's 1987 cult novel of the same title. The original Japanese Title “Noruwei no Mori” would translate as Norwegian Forest. This is contrast to the meaning of Wood in the Beatles Song Norwegian Wood, which refers to furniture made of wood. The song is a favourite song of Naoko's and much of the important action in the novel plays in the beautiful forests in Japan, so the double meaning of “wood” in its title is quite appropriate.
Norwegian Wood is an interesting, challenging and beautiful film.