Murakami on Screen

By Ruby O'Connor

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s dreamy and surreal works are admired worldwide, and his essays, novels and short stories have become bestsellers. As a result of this outstanding accomplishment, many of his works have been translated into film adaptations, seeing how directors embody his writings and render them to bring alive his words so that they blossom on screen. Find out more here in Murakami on Screen.

Haruki Murakami has been praised as one of the world’s greatest living novelists with his writings being bestsellers in Japan and internationally. Murakami’s novels are page-turners despite them being immersed with everyday subjects and moments at times, however, he brings out these details in a way that makes them very human and relatable.

His influences are as diverse as the genres he works in. From science fiction, via crime and fiction all the way to magic realism, with those who have influenced his style of writing being as far apart as Kurt Vonnegut, via Dag Solstad to Richard Brautigan and Raymond Chandler.

As a result of his writings becoming so widely renowned, his work has been made into many different films such as Drive My Car (2021), Burning (2018), Norwegian Wood (2010) and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2023).

The film Drive my Car is adapted from Murakami’s Men Without Women the story that follows an ageing and widowed actor who is looking for a chauffeur. When the actor turns to his mechanic for advise the mechanic ends up recommending a 20-year-old girl but despite their differences, a very special relationship blooms between the two.

With a duration of 2h 28mins Burning charms audiences into a slow-burning character study that in due time rewards viewers’ patience and overturns many expectations. The main character Jong-soo runs into Hae-mi who used to live in his neighbourhood, she asks him to watch over her cat whilst she’s away. When Hae-mi returns, she returns with Ben who she met on the trip, he tells Jong-soo about his odd hobby. Burning is one of those rare films that scores its value upon reflection.

The tale Norweigan Wood, like its source material from Murakami, is a beautiful film that encapsulates sadness and grief. This adaptation follows Toru who thinks back to the ’60s when he grew close to Naoko after his friend, Kizuki, killed himself. This Japanese artistic drama is another lengthy watch with a running time of 113 minutes.

The latest film inspired by this writer’s compelling tales is an animation called Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by French director Pierre Földes was released on the 31st of March 2023.

This beautiful mix of 2D and 3D animation entails three different Murakami stories, After the Quake, Elephant Vanishes and Blind Willow Sleeping Woman. Set in and around Tokyo in the recent impact of the 2011 earthquake. In this adult animation, a marriage breaks down, a cat goes missing, and a large, talkative frog visits a bank teller. Földes masterpiece can be described as surreal yet compelling as it dips in and out of different storylines.

The director, Pierre Földes, was against the conventional approach when working remotely on this project. In his storytelling, he does not want to impose emotions on the audience; however, he wants to inspire them to feel.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is laced with beautiful music and is ethereal in the way it presents itself as a sensory experience for the audience. Seeing how Murakami’s work is beautiful in all forms.

If you enjoyed Murakami on Screen, why not read Improvising in Film.

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