Tony Takitani is a shortish (1 hour 16 minutes) adaptation of a story by one of my favourite writers, Haruki Murakami. It’s not one of his best or most characteristic stories, nor is it particularly cinematic. It is, though, less explicitly weird than most of his stuff, so perhaps that’s why it has been chosen to be filmed (or that’s why it has been successful, anyway, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival).
It’s basically a story about loneliness. (Spoilers ahead.) Because of his western-sounding name, Tony Takitani gets used to receiving odd looks from people as a kid, and so stays away from them. But he doesn’t mind the solitude till he grows up and suddenly falls in love with a woman who is perfect for him in every way except for her uncontrollable obsession with buying clothes. Their married life is blissful till Tony suggests she might try to not buy so many. Tragedy ensues, and Tony is left alone once more. There is then a very Murakami-esque “transaction” in which a woman comes along and, left alone in the large wardrobe room with all of Tony’s dead wife’s clothes, she becomes a sort of conduit for the sadness of the whole situation and cries for no real reason she can understand.
The tone of the film is a lot more bleak than the written story, perhaps because it doesn’t have Murakami’s easy-going, lightly humorous prose to buoy it up, but other than that the adaptation is very faithful — perhaps too much so, as most of the film is carried along by an overdubbed narration. There’s only one really cinematic moment where the film does something the story can’t, and that’s where a scene of Tony lying on the floor of the now-empty wardrobe room cuts to the image of his father lying in an identical position in a prison cell where he was held in China, making you see the parallels between the father’s and son’s lives, and also pointing out how Tony’s loneliness is a prison as limiting as the physical cell in which his father was held.
Would I recommend it? Well, I went into the plot of the film pretty thoroughly because I doubt anyone who isn’t into Murakami will really want to see the film, and anyone who is into Murakami will probably have read the story (it’s in his latest collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman) so there’ll be no surprises anyway. Basically, not bad, quite moody if you’re up for a quiet, sad film, but otherwise, for Murakami completists only.