An entomologist on vacation is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.An entomologist on vacation is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.An entomologist on vacation is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.
Niki immediately questions the woman, as to why she would live in such a desolate place, in a ramshackle house where the sand is constantly flowing through holes in the roof and he is amazed to find that her nightly Sisyphean task involves filling baskets with sand that has blown into the pit and having it hoisted up by the locals. After feeding him, the woman tells him he doesn't have to help on his first night here, he finds this a curious statement as he is only staying one night? The truth behind the pit is soon revealed as Niki finds that there is no way out of the pit, the rope ladder having been removed by the locals.
Teshigahara is perhaps best known for his surreal and existential works, Woman in the Dunes fits right into this category. The setting of the sand dunes with the blinding sun gives the film an otherworldly dreamlike quality, with continuing rivers of sand also adding to this quality. The revelation that he is being kept captive is also a rather scary and intriguing, the film traces Niki's mixed emotions of anger and aggression, his denial of his captors, his change of heart and the fact he would stop at nothing to get the merest of rewards from them. His transformation is complete as he himself turns into a captor, of the woman that he now shares his life with.
The film is an epic at almost 2 ½ hours, its pace is incredibly slow but strangely it still doesn't feel that long, this viewer being drawn in to the complexities of the film. There's also a very sensual and sexual subtext, with the burning heat and little to do during the day and with the woman's recommendation that they sleep naked because the sand will chaff them, it is inevitable that sexual liaisons will happen and they do, sometimes it rough and ready and they wrestle each other, sometimes its sensuous as they provocatively wash the sand from each other in some very intimate moments.
Woman of the Dunes I have heard is full of subtext and hidden meanings, some are contradictory to the writer and directors visions so its hard to tell exactly on this my first viewing, exactly what they are so I will not even try to do so, I'll just sit back and let the film wash through my mind again and maybe it will all fall into place. The ending is controversial I would say, I can imagine it causes divide amongst those who have seen it, but in the context of the surreal setting and qualities of the film, I think it suits it fine, if nothing else it will get you talking about it, I think it's a film ripe for over analysis, so again I won't.
- Dec 1, 2008