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Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Suna no onna (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | 25 October 1964 (USA)
3:05 | Trailer

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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 »
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:
Robert Dunham
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


Haunting. Erotic. Unforgettable. 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

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Raquel Welsh bought the rights in the mid-70's but she never managed to bring it to the screen. See more »


Jumpei is seen from behind, adjusting his clothing after urinating at the wall of sand. When he turns around, there are no wet or discolored areas in the sand as there would be if he had actually urinated. See more »


Man: It's like building a house in the water when ships exist. Why insist on a house?
Woman: You want to go home too.
See more »


Featured in Music for the Movies: Tôru Takemitsu (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

Zen and the City
6 August 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In my interpretation this movie is a reflection on Zen philosophy: Just like Zen monks that sweep the courtyards of monasteries and devote themselves to the most humble tasks to find inner harmony, Niki finds inner rest in the daily work of removing the sand, solving water supply problems and living a confined live. The movie suggests the modern lives we live in the big cities isolate us from our needs and ourselves. Just like a Zen garden, that is designed to mirror nature and men, the people in the dunes reflect our daily struggles and confinements. The surreal setting is a necessity to convey the message of the film. There is nothing goofy about the pits and how people behave in there. It is just hard for us western people to see the transcendence there.

I watched this movie on a Japanese Film Festival in Berlin in 1993. I can't remember all the details but the movie really mesmerized me. It is a very unique work and I wonder why it doesn't have the cult status of other movies.

38 of 51 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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