This beautifully animated adaptation of several Murakami’s texts is talky and philosophical as it flits between surrealism and a sense of groundedness, urging us to find or create meaning in life even when there might be none.
Dir. Pierre Foldes
2022 | Canada, France | Animation, Drama | 108 min | 1.85:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for sexual scenes and nudity
Cast: Katharine King, Shoshana Wilder, Jesse Noah Gruman
Plot: A giant talkative frog, a lost cat, and a tsunami help a bank employee, his wife and a schizophrenic accountant to save Tokyo from an earthquake and find meaning to their lives.
Awards: Won Jury Distinction & Nom. for Cristal for Best Feature (Annecy); Official Selection (Toronto)
International Sales: The Match Factory (SG: Lighthouse Pictures)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Existentialism; Finding Meaning in Life; Work & Marriage Issues
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: The Projector Golden Mile
I first heard of Haruki Murakami from screen adaptations such as Burning (2018) and Drive My Car (2021), though I realised that I had also seen Norwegian Wood (2010) during my earlier days.
I’m not a book person and have not read any novel or short story from Murakami, and my screen exploits have primarily been driven by directors more than anything else, yet it is Murakami’s ‘brand’ that got me interested in this animated adaptation of several of his texts.
It’s a beautiful piece and something that I find a delight to vibe with, considering it operates on a more philosophical and existential level.
Set in the context of the impending 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman flits between scenes of surrealism and groundedness as three characters (with stressors at work or with their marriage) find what little courage they have to try to move on with life.
“Living with you was like living with a chunk of air.”
It’s a quaint, somewhat life-affirming film that isn’t afraid to deal with the bitter truths of loneliness and lack of self-worth. A human-sized talking frog is one of the film’s jolting if amusing highlights, as it persuades a jaded bank employee to join it in a fight against a creature that would cause the said earthquake.
The film’s deft handling of more illogical scenarios and quietly affecting heart-to-heart conversations between characters feels quite natural, a testament to its effective world-building.
While the film does feel its length, there’s enough in its warped visuals and intriguing characters to sustain a thought-provoking watch—it urges us to find or create meaning in life even when there might be none.