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
Hiroshi Teshigahara's "Woman in the Dunes" is truly a unique movie. It's about an entomologist who goes on a holiday, only to find himself trapped in huge sand pit with a woman. The woman has no will to get out of the sand (it's been "broken"--like that of a stable horse--no doubt), but he refuses to live a "meaningless" life in the sand pit (like the woman). He tries to get out, but it's all in vain: the wall of sand is an impenetrable barrier between him and his "freedom." And so the story goes. The sand pit, I guess, is a metaphor for humanity's existentialist plight. Like the mythological Sisyphus, who was condemned for eternity to roll a rock to the top of a hill only to have it roll back down again, the two characters in this film dig sand out of their pit--but the sand keeps coming back....which raises the question: If life is meaningless--as Satre and Camus have said--what will we do? Do we keep digging? Do we opt for suicide instead? Or what? This is one of those films that haunt you after you see it; you'll keep thinking of it during subsequent days and even weeks. It is also distinguished by its luscious and crisp black and white deep focus photography. "The Woman in the Dunes" is (sadly) a far too little-known cinematic treasure that is thought-provoking, beautiful, erotic, and even eerie. Once you see it, you won't soon forget it.
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