Woman in the Dunes (1964)
based on a novel by Kobo Abe
with: Eiji Okada, Kyoko Kishida
When I was in middle school I read 'Woman in the Dunes' for my international literature class. I wasn't very attracted by it because it was homework and I was young. However, when I got into reading Japanese literature with Haruki Murakami's novels, I felt tempted to go back and read Abe's novel. I didn't. Instead, I wanted Teshigahara to tell me the story, and what a beautiful one! Woman in the Dunes has one of my favorite monologues on film.
Niki Jumpei, a science teacher and entomologist from Tokyo is seeking to get his name printed on a textbook by finding a rare kind of beetle. That is what moves him, to be recognized. In his search he goes to a poor village lost in the desert where his aspirations, hopes, and meaning of life will change as he finds himself trapped with a woman whose house is surrounded by dunes and where efforts for survival seem to be pointless. As a scientist, Jumpei looks for rational solutions and a more civilized way of living. But what he finds is that the movement of the sand, although apparently insignificant, can be more influential in peoples lives than the movement of the city.
This film is said to have many many metaphors and allegories, which is true. But it's important not to focus on that specifically, but on the mood and the feelings, on the flow of the images and sounds, the beautiful cinematography and honest look into situational human behaviors. A very enjoyable film that lasts almost 2hr30min, but goes by so quickly that you won't want to blink.
written by Bob Clapes