Short stories by the acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami make the leap to the big screen in the breathtaking new animation Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.
Opening in the UK on 31 March, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is the debut feature film from director, composer and painter Pierre Földes. Having made its world premiere at the Annecy International Animation Festival in 2022, the film has already won over critics with its bewitching and melancholic depiction of Murakami's beloved tales.
And once you've watched the trailer, you'll understand why. Deviating from other titans in the animation industry (hello, Ghibli and Disney), this movie released by female-led, social-issues-driven film distribution company Modern Films takes a somewhat more sombre approach to its source material.
Blending the strengths of both 2D and 3D animation, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a haunting yet playful realisation of several short story collections, including the titular Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, plus The Elephant Vanishes and After The Quake.
Set in the days following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman follows the lives of survivors and explores the external and psychological repercussions of the disaster. It includes an overworked office clerk pressured into getting results, a dissatisfied woman transfixed by news of the events, and the appearance of a humanoid frog creature on a mission to save Tokyo.
Modern Films explains the plot further: "Kyoko suddenly leaves her husband after spending five days in a row glued to unfolding earthquake footage on TV. Her helpless husband, Komura, takes a week's leave from work and heads north to deliver a box and its unknown contents to two young women.
"His colleague Katagiri, a simple debt collector by profession and an awkward loner in life, returns home one evening to find a two-metre-tall frog asking for his help to save Tokyo from impending destruction by a giant subterranean worm.
"Through memories, dreams and fantasies, Kyoko, Komura and Katagiri, influenced by their visions of earthquakes – manifested as evil willow trees, giant earthworms, secret vows, mysterious boxes and a dark, endless corridor – attempt to rediscover their true selves."
Bringing this strange and poetic story to life is an original score by French-English director Pierre Földes and a beautiful blend of animation techniques. This includes a live-action shoot, 3D motion graphics and 2D animation layouts. The result is an unearthly visual style that lends itself well to the surreal imagery typical of Murakami narratives.