Suna no onna
FEATURING: Eiji Okada,
PLOT: A schoolteacher and amateur entomologist’s search for an elusive beetle takes him to a remote seaside village. Needing a place to stay, he asks the townspeople for lodging and is offered shelter with an odd young widow who lives in a shack at the bottom of a pit. The next morning, as he prepares to leave, he finds that the villagers have tricked him and he is trapped in the pit, forced to shovel sand in return for food and water, presumably for the remainder of his days.
- Kōbō Abe wrote the novel “The Woman in the Dunes” in 1962 and was in the rare and enviable position of adapting it for the screen himself two years later. Abe wrote a total of four screenplays for director , all of which were scored by legendary composer Tôru Takemitsu.
- Takemitsu’s score was recorded by a string ensemble, then electronically distorted.
- The film was cut by about twenty minutes during its original release. The full length film runs about two and a half hours.
- Woman in the Dunes was nominated for a Best Foreign Language film Oscar, and, more impressively for a Hollywood outsider,
- The nudity and sex in the film were daring by 1964 standards, causing the import to be marketed in the U.S. with the tagline “The most provocative picture ever made.”
- retired from filmmaking in 1979 to enter the family business—flower arranging!
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Sand, endless sand. Shifting sand, cascading sand, crumbling walls of sand, grains of sand stuck between toes. But to narrow it down, the dream sequences where the entomologist sees women superimposed over the sand, once with the sand ripples mimicking strands of hair, and once with a dune tracing the curve of a hip.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Feminine mirages; rotting sand; voyeur drum circle
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The plot of Woman in the Dunes—a man trapped into slavery in a remote village, forced to labor to earn his keep—is almost plausible, allowing the unimaginative to view it as a dull version of an escape movie. The hypnotic pace, bleakly beautiful cinematography, and Toru Takemitsu’s unnerving score inform this fable’s weird construction, however, creating a sense of strangeness that slowly gets under your skin like beach sand gets under your swimsuit.
Original Japanese trailer for Woman in the Dunes
COMMENTS: A man, a woman, sand: those are the triangular borders of Woman in the Dunes. Within this minimal landscape, the Continue reading 247. WOMAN IN THE DUNES (1964)