An entomologist searching for insects by the seaside is trapped by local villagers into living with a widow whose life task is digging up sand for them. He eventually develops strong feelings for her as his hope for escape dims.
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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 ... Written by
I get more and more impressed with the classics of Japanese cinema and this is def a highlight. Mesmerizing and artsy it portrays a etymologist and 'the woman of the dunes' trapped in sand. The trap itself obviously symbolizes the trap a certain desert beetle digs to lie in the midst of it waiting for prey which cannot help but sliding into it. Its the same for him, he cant climb the sand walls, the more he struggles the more the sand runs a little like the woman who in fear of the outside continues her sisyfosan existence.
The psychology between the two is excellently depicted. The tension is intensified trough images of sweaty skin and running sand. The cinematographer is a master in filming this. Lots of black. Editing also is sharp and very well done. Sound is minimal and fits the images' bleak and deserted dunes.
Much can be said about this movie, it is one for repeated viewings for sure.
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