In early 1966, when the annual Oscar nominations for best director of the year were announced, Teshigahara might have even made a wry smile. What is surprising to me today is not that a Japanese filmmaker almost unknown in the US was nominated, but that the Motion Picture Academy in 1966 had such a keen aesthetic sense as to appreciate his radical work. "Woman in the Dunes" (Suna no onna) was far ahead of its time, radiating Absolute Beauty.
An entomologist (Eiji Okada) seeks lodging for the night in the dunes, and is led by the villagers to the bottom of a sandpit where he finds a widow (Kyoko Kishida) living in a shack. Next morning he discovers he can no longer climb out. He is expected to remain there and to live with the woman, who needs a man's help. Because the sand drifts into the shack without cease, shoveling sand away from the sandpit is her primary daily routine. After all attempts to escape the situation fail, he becomes accustomed to it and finds another way of life.
It is almost meaningless to try to ascertain any scientific or economic logic beneath the surface of this allegorical story (written by Kobo Abe). Such hairsplitting will only make you lose the merit of this work. The primary subject of the story seems to lie in a certain passive mentality to be called "mental inertia," mental acclimation, conformity, or something like that. "Mental inertia" is caused by "usualness" (or "dailiness"), and comes to dominate the subconscious in due course. Abe and Teshigahara metaphorically depict such "usualness" as the character of sand -- usualness formed in an unusual situation.
The woman has a strong mental attachment to the status quo around her; despite the cruel fact that the sand has killed her husband and daughter, she prefers to stay there and not to change her life. This is the "mental inertia" of the work. The entomologist, too. He at first thinks the whole situation surrounding the woman absurd, and tries to escape it. However, he becomes accustomed to the situation day by day, and accepts such absurdity after all. By whom is he forced to do so? The villagers? No. Himself! He chooses to return to the sandpit and stay there even when he becomes free to leave. He becomes a captive in the dunes by "mental inertia" just as he has been in the city.
After seeing this work, I came to feel that many variants of "invisible sand," which might dominate our "free will," are drifting and accumulating around us without cease, whether or not we realize it.
Pictures are great. The sand is living here, showing various expressions. Surely it "acts" as a main character in several impressive scenes, including an unforgettable love scene where the couple is caked with it.
And, music! -- if we may call this incomparable sound work so. It not only enhances each scene fully, but also gives life to things that are not expressed in image alone. From barbaric drum music through sensual sound like the sand's "breathing," Takemistu-sound is full of imagination and magic.
A perfect fusion of Image, Sound, and Subject. See "Woman in the Dunes" and die.
Woman in the Dunes
Drama / Thriller
Woman in the Dunes
Drama / Thriller
Jumpei Niki, a Tokyo based entomologist and educator, is in a poor seaside village collecting specimens of sand insects. As it is late in the day and as he has missed the last bus back to the city, some of the local villagers suggest that he spend the night there, they offering to find him a place to stay. That place is the home of a young woman, whose house is located at the bottom of a sand pit accessible only by ladder. He later learns that the woman's husband and child died in a sandstorm, their undiscovered bodies buried somewhere near the house. The next morning as he tries to leave, he finds that the ladder is gone - he realizing that the ladder he climbed down was a rope ladder which is anchored above the pit - meaning that he is trapped with the young woman as the walls of the pit are sand with no grip. He also realizes that this entrapment was the villagers and the young woman's plan for him to stay there permanently to be her helper in the never-ending task of digging out ...
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
May 13, 2020 at 12:14 AM