CINEASTE | Woman in the Dunes
ISSUE THREE | CINEASTE
W O M A N I N T H E D U N E S
ONE OF THE SIXTIES’ GREAT JAPANESE ART-HOUSE FILMS, ‘WOMAN IN THE DUNES’ WAS THE GRAND UNVEILING OF THE SURREAL, UNIQUE WORLDVIEW OF DIRECTOR HIROSHI TESHIGAHARA. BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY CELEBRATED WRITER AND THINKER K?B? ABE, THIS MOVIE COMBINES THE ESSENCE OF MYTH, SUSPENSE AND THE EXISTENTIAL STORY.
An amateur entomologist leaves Tokyo to study an unclassified species of beetle that resides in a remote, vast desert. When he misses the last bus, he is persuaded to spend the night in the home of a young widow who lives in a hut at the bottom of a sand dune. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he discovers that he is held captive with seemingly no chance of escape. From now on, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. Together with the widow their fates become intertwined as they work side by side. This becomes an erotic battle of the sexes, and a nightmarish depiction of everyday Sisyphean struggle.
This film poses essential questions but provide few answers. What are you doing with your life? Is it anything more than endlessly shoveling sand in return for food and a place to lay your head? Are you trapped in a hole looking up occasionally at the sky, but never seeing the horizon? What gives your life a meaning? Is it love? Is it art? Do you feel any connection with the group you claim to be part of ? These are the issues that the protagonist of the film grapples with, and he struggles alone, without a comprehending society available to provide solutions. This story is about identity search, which is not only that of the individual in personal relationships but, at the same time, that of the group in opposition to the greater society. It examines the individual for com- fort level in his society.
I rather think the world is like sand. The fundamental nature of sand is very difficult to grasp when you think of it in its stationary state. Sand not only flows, but this very flow is the sand.
? K?b? Abe, The Woman in the Dunes
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