Woman in the Dunes (1964)
"Suna no onna" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  25 October 1964 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 10,373 users  
Reviews: 64 user | 79 critic

An entomologist on vacation is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.


(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Hiroko Itô ...
Entomologist's wife (in flashbacks)
Kôji Mitsui
Sen Yano
Ginzô Sekiguchi
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Kiyohiko Ichihara
Hideo Kanze
Hiroyuki Nishimoto
Tamotsu Tamura


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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The most provocative picture ever made. See more »


Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 October 1964 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Woman in the Dunes  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


At one point, the entomologist collects an antlion. This insect is from the family Myrmeleontidae. The larval stage is often called a "doodlebug" in the United States. The insect ensnares its prey by digging out a pit in loose sand. When the prey falls into the pit, it is unable to get out and becomes food for the antlion. This is symbolic of the situation the entomologist himself encounters when he is trapped in the sand pit. See more »


Man: It's useless. The sand can swallow up cities and countries, if it wants to.
See more »


Referenced in I Like Killing Flies (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Spellbinding and creepy
9 March 2004 | by (Kansas City, Missouri, USA) – See all my reviews

I'd wanted to see this movie for years, and finally got around to it, on DVD. What a treat! I was glad to discover that the erotic element, though important, is not the predominant draw here; typically, some references to the film make it sound as though it were some forbidden erotic romp, or full of perverse sexuality. Instead I found myself wrapped up in a creepy suspense-thriller sci-fi-fantasy carried off with wit, style, and extraordinarily interesting photography (including one scene that, at least on my set, was completely black for a couple of minutes).

I voted "nine" for this wonderful film, in part because it left me with a lot to think about, in part just for how well it was made. The music by Toru Takemitsu is absolutely perfect for the task, too.

This is just about my favorite kind of film: one that raises important questions about human life, but not at the expense of entertainment. It's as close as I'll probably ever come to having my cake and eating it, too.

Update, January 2007: I finally obtained my own DVD of this film, one with much higher quality photographic reproduction. I now marvel even more at the extraordinarily creative photography. Be sure, if you view this on DVD, not to boost your set's brightness: I can assure you the film is very, very dark on purpose. If possible, see it on a high-definition monitor. Today, I'd vote "ten."

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