Haruki Murakami’s 1987 bestseller Norwegian Wood has been adapted into a remarkable work by director Tran Anh Hung. I haven’t read the book but am aware of the cult status it holds. Set in Tokyo in the late 1960s, it showcases a world of wonderous interior design, lush landscapes, student dorms, political unrest on university campus, listening to LPs, handwritten letters and sexual freedom. The film is precisely presented and the story unfolds unhurried. It rewards attention with a visually beguiling experience.

Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) is a student who begins a relationship with Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), a delicate young woman whom he met a year prior, in high school. They are bound in despair by an indescribable, shared tragedy which is the epicentre of the film. Their lives since the event have taken very different paths. The director focuses on the characters’ loneliness and the story’s dark eroticism. Norwegian Wood is a profoundly perceptive work which depicts loss with great sensitivity. It examines the stark contrasts of Japanese society: the restrained dignity which rules everyday life and the clandestine yet rampant mental illness. The sublime orchestral score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is never overbearing but rather offers subtle hints on how we should read the intense scenarios. The actors seem perfectly cast and Tran has a clever, delicate touch with his filmmaking. The film just flows and you don’t want it to stop. I adored this.

Norwegian Wood is showing at selected theatres now.