Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Woman in the Dunes (Suna no onna) (1964)

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara. Cast: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida. 147 min. Not Rated. Japan. Drama/Thriller.

I rarely write about old movies, unless I'm recommending them; and I highly recommend this one. An entomologist is lured by villagers and trapped in a dune sandpit, as a "helper" to a woman living there, to shovel the sand out every night. They shovel, and sand keeps accumulating; they don't shovel, and they'll get buried. So... "Do you shovel to live, or live to shovel?" The concepts and allegories are so far-reaching, the enigmatic but obvious ending so perfectly describes the mechanisms of totalitarian governance, I was confounded how we still grapple with paradoxes mentioned in 50-year-old Japanese films.

PS: You know what? Ebert's four-star review on this Cannes Jury Prize winner does a much more splendid job here. Read it after you've watched the movie.

"You cannot escape the pit. But you can make it a better pit. Small consolation is better than none."

Mo says:


  1. I saw this on late night TV years ago but I'd forgotten what it was called. Needless to say I loved it!

  2. Apparently Teshigehara has two other good ones, "Pitfall" and "The Face of Another". I'll be on the lookout for them.