There is a lot of work involved in adapting the work of the most popular Japanese author of his generation. On the other hand, Drive My Car demonstrates that Ryusuke Hamaguchi was up to the task.
The three-hour drama, adapted from a short tale by Haruki Murakami, has received four Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best director nods for Hamaguchi, making it one of the biggest surprises of this year’s Oscar season.
The Japanese director, who has been a fixture on the international arthouse scene for years, has finally found mainstream success with this film.
Hamaguchi talks about his “amazing year” with Drive My Car in an interview video with The Hollywood Reporter. He discusses the changes he made to the original story and how the fusion of his cinematic style with Murakami’s prose resulted in a “story about loss and revitalization” more universal than anything he had previously made.
- Up to 200 Americans Reported Possible Havana Syndrome …
- Beyonce Gets her First Oscar Nomination for King Richard
- 1 So, how did You Feel when You found out that Drive My Car had been Nominated for Four Academy Awards?
- 2 When did You Realise that this Movie would be so well Received by People all Across the World?
- 3 What was it about Drive My Car that struck a Chord with so many People? It Appears to be in the same vein as Your other Terrific but Less Commercially Successful Films.
- 4 What was the Toughest Part in Adapting Murakami, if there was one?
- 5 Just what Details did You Insert into the Narrative?
- 6 To what Extent did You Alter the Following?
- 7 How about Murakami, has He Caught the Movie? Can you Imagine what he was Contemplating?
So, how did You Feel when You found out that Drive My Car had been Nominated for Four Academy Awards?
It caught me completely off guard. In no way did I anticipate this turn of events, and to earn four nominations is astounding.
My heart and soul were completely taken aback. When I got to tell the other actors and staff members, I was extremely happier. Therefore, I feel a great sense of pride, gratitude, and admiration.
When did You Realise that this Movie would be so well Received by People all Across the World?
It’s been a fantastic year filled with unforgettable experiences. The first step was probably when I saw the “top star” reviews Drive My Car was getting at Cannes, where it had its world premiere. That’s when I realised there were actually a lot of people out there who would enjoy this movie.
The second phase involved the reaction in America. The fact that Drive My Car was recognised as the best film by the National Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the New York Film Critics Circle, among others, was a huge affirmation for me, even more so than the Oscar nominations.
Furthermore, the enthusiastic reception from the American audience let me realise that the tale I told is one that can be enjoyed by people all around the world. That’s largely due to the fact that the original story was written by Haruki Murakami and that Murakami himself is a globally renowned author.
What was it about Drive My Car that struck a Chord with so many People? It Appears to be in the same vein as Your other Terrific but Less Commercially Successful Films.
I realise I’ll be repeating myself a bit, but I truly believe this relates back to Haruki Murakami’s initial story. The novella explores ideas that I’ve frequently written about myself.
However, while working on this script, I had the distinct impression that I had never before penned a story with such broad appeal.
This sort of tale about devastation and subsequent rebirth, for instance. A lot of Haruki Murakami’s lengthier novels, I feel, include protagonists who have suffered a loss and whose arcs are ultimately about overcoming and moving past that anguish. This is less true of his shorter works.
Many of Haruki Murakami’s stories focus on regaining optimism after experiencing tragedy. The things they had lost were irretrievable, but they had found a way to keep their faith. That, I believe, is what mostly accounted for the film’s massive success in front of an international audience.
What was the Toughest Part in Adapting Murakami, if there was one?
When adapting Haruki Murakami’s works to the big screen, one of the biggest challenges was recreating the author’s distinctive world visually. I don’t think they could have done justice to the original [story] by sticking strictly to the words in the original and adapting that into the film.
It was crucial to me that the video capture the emotions I had while reading the book. A big part of that was making sure the characters were as genuine and low-key as possible; these are people that pay close attention to what’s going on around them and don’t waste time.
Because of that, though, they don’t do anything to advance the plot. Making a film adaptation of this narrative that stays faithful to the source material proved to be a formidable challenge.
Just what Details did You Insert into the Narrative?
In terms of what I altered, I believe the primary difference is in the amount of new material I added to the story and the level of detail I gave it. I included a little bit of everything — the past, the present, and the future — in the tale.
To be fair, I did steal a little of history from another [Murakami] short story in the same collection as Drive My Car. To wrap up the film, I made the character who begins narrating after engaging in sexual activity into the model nice wife.
I used pieces from another short story in which a husband discovers that his wife has been unfaithful to him for the section set in the future.
The staging of an ambitious production of the Chekhov classic “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima is the most important of the story points I’ve added to the current scenes (Kafuku, played by Hidetoshi Nishijima), and it’s also the reason why I’m here.
After watching Kafuku sing Uncle Vanya, I had the impression that the crowd had a pretty good idea of what was going on in his head.
However, I was able to keep many of the original’s essential features. One may say that Kafuku is one. A second example is Toko Miura’s Misaki.
Also, a large chunk of the talking. I recall [Murakami’s] remarks striking a chord with me when I first read the original. If I could get an actor to recite those lines convincingly, then I would have a film that is both honest and entertaining.
To what Extent did You Alter the Following?
In the end, I’m turning a short narrative into a movie. This means that there are several deviations from the source material. Obviously, the car is a different colour.
It’s a yellow Saab convertible in the book. But in the film, it’s red and not a convertible: it has a roof. This is a pragmatic decision. It would not have been possible to record the conversation in silence if the car’s windows had been open.
We had planned on purchasing a yellow Saab, but the individual who arranged the test drive showed up in a red one instead. Plus, I can still vividly recall thinking, “Oh, how cool is this car, this red car?”
I planned to have the automobile travel through a number of different Japanese landscapes in this film, and I thought the colour red would really stand out against the other settings. Since yellow is so close to green, it is more likely to disappear into its surroundings.
How about Murakami, has He Caught the Movie? Can you Imagine what he was Contemplating?
Apparently, Haruki Murakami has watched the movie. According to an interview I read, he did see it, and one of the things he noticed was that the car was a different colour.
And that caught him off guard. As I read the interview, I became concerned for his mental health. The highest compliment anyone could pay me was the one he gave me, though.
He watched the movie and claimed he couldn’t tell which parts were his own. That’s good news, because it suggests we succeeded in preserving the Murakami universe.