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Movie Talk: Haruki Murakami

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It is not common that a writer is featured in a movie column.

But for those who have read Haruki Murakami’s books, they will readily agree that he  is no ordinary writer.

Novel writers and scriptwriters are many but writers who possess the unique ability to pen stories interwoven with art house materials are very,very few. While art house directors are able to direct their movies with an artistic eye, employing and integrating art house elements into words is another matter altogether.

While the former is challenging, the latter proves to be daunting – considering that directors can always control a viewer’s line of sight on the screen but writers can only hope to align their lines of thoughts with that of the readers.

This probably explains why it is always tough to translate a writer’s works onscreen. It is even tougher to win over the audience through a director’s works since the audience will tend to compare the filmic adaptation of the novels to that of their literary counterparts. Coupled with the fact that novels often gives readers free reign with their imagination with each reader creating a vision of what the story is like, it is not possible for a film director to cater to such diverse expectations. Hence, the disappointments of most novel-based films.

However, every cloud has a silver lining. Films such as “The Kite Runner” (2007) (a film based on Khaled Hosseini’s novel) and “My Sister’s Keeper” (2009) (based on a novel by Jodi Picoult) are popular and well-received by viewers.

And Haruki Murakami has the ability to do just that – using art house visuals and elements that are familiar to readers to evoke interesting scenes of nostalgia and irony, as well as fine-tuning the artistic literary devices to engage readers through the novels or short stories in their entirety.

Not one to bore readers with the mundane and the ordinary, expect Haruki Murakami’s works to hinge on the eccentric and border on the bizarre – with memorable and beautiful images that often stay with readers long after they have finished reading the tales.

Although several of his novels have been made into films (such as “Norwegian Wood” (2010)), it will probably be “Tony Takitani” (2004) that will strike a chord with most viewers – especially those who have not come across his works. In a narrative style, the film speaks of a spousal relationship between an introverted technical illustrator and  a feminine  shopaholic.

In a world where men are experiencing ever-greater excruciating efforts in climbing the corporate ladder while ladies are growing fiercely independent financially, “Tony Takitani” is one film which speaks to the hearts of both singles and couples in  developed countries facing the strains and onslaught of a capitalist society laced with consumerism.

Nevertheless, it’s the novel “After dark” that this writer will always remember Haruki Murakami by though. Strangers meeting in moments of serendipity, loneliness met with  friendships and the duration of one night which is the time span of  the entire novel are ingredients that make for an interesting read. While “After Dark” may not go down as Murakami’s most memorable works, it surely ranks among the most provocative of his book titles.

It will be interesting to explore the possibility of Haruki Murakami being in the director’s chair instead of holding a writer’s pen. While Murakami is receiving applause for this literary works, he might well receive a standing ovation for his filmic directions.

We will just have to wait to find out.

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