Murakami’s Norwegian Wood at The Tyneside


Some films demand respect. Some films demand a big screen. Some films demand The Tyneside Cinema.

When I read in January that Haruki Murakami’s best selling novel, ‘Norwegian Wood’, had been made into a film and was being released in the UK I put a note in my calendar to go and see it on the day of its release. Like a football fan who turns down the radio when the football scores are announced so it was with this bewitching tale of long lost love, death and sorrow. I didn’t want to risk accidentally reading a review or seeing a clip anywhere else. It needed to be the real deal and it needed to be at The Tyneside, preferably with a large glass of Shiraz.

Norwegian Wood at The Tyneside

“The Tyneside Cinema was originally built as Newcastle’s News Theatre in 1937 and today is the finest surviving news reel cinema in Britain.  Every day of the week our new permanent exhibit describes the history of the building and how the news was filmed and screened in the days of the newsreels. You can hear the stories of the people who made the news and what the newsreels meant to local people, you can even experience the thrill of making a projector whirr into life – first hand!”


This beautiful building, with its atmosphere of cinema loving people of all ages, is one of Newcastle’s finest gems. The last film I saw here was ‘The King’s Speech’ with a group of girlfriends who were visiting from London. They declared that the whole place had ‘been Mary Portas-ed’ as everyone was so friendly and welcoming and, queueing for the ladies’ loos after the film I got chatting to an elderly woman who mused “I was there at the time you know. Not at the palace of course, but I listened to his speech on the wireless … It’s funny. We all just thought he spoke terribly slowly …”

Now, I don’t think that’s the sort of chat you’d get in a queue for any ordinary cinema.

The audience for Norwegian Wood included a handsome French guy who enthused about Murakami to his friend. “You have read him? Non? You have read Norwegian Wood?” The friend answered that she had read another of Murakami’s books, “Kafka … the Kafka Beach one?” He rolled his eyes, “Kafka on the Shore? Yes, This one I love also. I adore him. I adore his books.” I wanted to go and be his friend too so I could talk about corridors with numerous doors, deep wells, perfect earlobes, the sound of spaghetti chattering in the pan as it reaches that perfect ‘al dente’ stage, the fizz of a bottle of ice cold Asahi beer being opened and all the other nuances that make Murakami so delicious to read … and then the credits rolled.

Oh, but the music, the scenery, the skin on skin, the knit one purl one of every stitch, the clothes, the hills, mountains and sea. The film was always going to be a roller coaster of emotions but the contrast between the beautiful and ravishing Japan portrayed on the silver screen and the Japan of the novel was mesmerising. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to give away the score (ravishingly written by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood) … but it was cinematic bliss.



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