words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

Weekly Movie-Making Moments In Film – The Woman in the Dunes by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on the novel by Kobe Abe

I have recently seen the wonderful Japanese film Suna no onna (Woman in the Dunes) 1964 by Director Hiroshi Teshigahara. It is an extraordinary film. Beautifully crafted. Surreal and mesmerizing. I highly recommend it. Below is a link to an analytical review and a link which contains the featured film. The film is available on Net Flix as well. The film is 2-hours and 27 minutes long. I have included a short synopsis of the film below.

http://youtu.be/P-2xec9Ebg0Ā  – video essay by James Quandt – part 1 (please note, I was unable to find part 2 of the essay). Part 1 ends abruptly.

http://youtu.be/H-5fY8hZdTs – Feature Film

An entomologist, Jumpei Niki (played in the film by Eiji Okada), is on an expedition to collect insects which inhabit sand dunes. When he misses the last bus, villagers suggest he stay the night. They guide him down a rope ladder to a house in a sand quarry where a young widow (Kyoko Kishida) lives alone. She is employed by the villagers to dig sand for sale and to save the house from burial in the advancing sand.

When Jumpei tries to leave the next morning, he finds the ladder removed. The villagers inform him that he must help the widow in her endless task of digging sand. Jumpei initially tries to escape; upon failing he takes the widow captive but is forced to release her in order to receive water from the villagers.

Jumpei becomes the widow’s lover. However, he still desperately wants to leave. One morning, he escapes from the sand dune and starts running while being chased by the villagers. Jumpei is not familiar with the geography of the area and eventually gets trapped in some quicksand. The villagers free him from the quicksand and then return him back to the widow.

Eventually, Jumpei resigns himself to his fate. Through his persistent effort to trap a crow as a messenger, he discovers a way to draw water from the damp sand at night. He thus becomes absorbed in the task of perfecting his technology and adapts to his “trapped” life. The focus of the film shifts to the way in which the couple cope with the oppressiveness of their condition and the power of their physical attraction in spite of ā€” or possibly because of ā€” their situation.

At the end of the film Jumpei gets his chance to escape, but he chooses to prolong his stay in the dune. A report after seven years declaring him missing is then shown hanging from a wall, written by the police and signed by his mother Shino.

6 responses

  1. I love that movie – it’s also available on the Criterion Collection edition on Hulu+. Thanks for writing about it.

    My blog on Woman in the Dunes:

    March 14, 2012 at 5:33 am

    • Hey Bill, sorry I am just getting back to your comment. I am still mesmerized by the film weeks later. The next film by Teshigahara, I will check out is “The Face of Another” I heard it is pretty good as well. I think I did leave a comment on your blog about the film Berlin Alexanderplatz? Gonna check that out again soon when I have 16 hours. But for now I am looking forward to HBO’s Game of Thrones in April.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:29 pm

  2. Hello Walter,
    I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I would be honoured if you will accept it. Follow the link for details:
    Good night,
    Ela. šŸ™‚

    March 15, 2012 at 1:50 am

    • I want to thank you for nominating me for this award. This is so cool. I actually have been nominated by you and someone else for this award this very week. Sometimes I am rather slow with getting it on my blog, but I certainly will.

      Peace and Light

      March 17, 2012 at 5:32 am

  3. Oh no I feel suffocated just reading about it. That is so terrible! Very thought provoking I am sure. I will tell my husband about it, he might like it. I think I would have nightmares!

    March 16, 2012 at 2:39 am

    • Linda, it is a very beautiful film. It is intense, but I think you will enjoy it.

      March 17, 2012 at 5:34 am

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