Woman of the Dunes | Soona no Onna (1964) **** Bfi Player

May 18th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor
Dir: Hiroshi Teshigahara | Wri: Kobo Abe | Cast: Eiji Okada, Kyoko Ashida | Japan, Drama 143′
 A macabre, beguiling, bleak tale that echoes our worst nightmares – being trapped forever in an endless life of hopelessness where self-determinism is taken away. Vaguely erotic but ultimately nauseously claustrophobic this Japanese classic is an Oriental filmic answer to existential philosophers such as Sartre, Camus and Kierkegaard.A school teacher combing the dunes for unusual insects is so involved in his task he misses the last bus home and is offered a bed for the night by a local woman. The billet is at the bottom of a sandy bank reached by a rope ladder but he wakes up the next morning to discover the ladder has disappeared and he is forced to shovel sand out from underneath the house in order to safeguard his resting place. By the end of each day he much start the process again and soon realises he is trapped with the woman and – ultimately by the villagers who appear to be selling the sand to building contractors. It’s the ultimate catch 22 and won the Jury Prize at Cannes in the year of its filming.

We’ve all heard of a dripping tap. Woman of the Dunes is about shifting sands. The sensual beauty of the black and white visuals contrasts with the sheer dreadfulness of the situation as the teacher is slowly driven out of his mind, forced between communing with the woman and his unbearable sense of helplessness in this Kafkaesque hell. MT






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