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Woman in the Dunes
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Hiroshi Teshigahara's powerful masterpiece follows an amateur biologist who escapes the bustle of the city by studying beetles in remote sand dunes. After missing the last bus, he accepts a villager's offer to spend the night in a widow's shack at the bottom of a deep sand pit. In the morning he finds he is trapped. At first enraged, the man's hatred for the woman soon turns to searing, erotic lust. In Japanese with English subtitles.
In addition to being a celebrated milestone of Japanese cinema, Woman in the Dunes is surely one of the most sensual films ever made--not in the purely erotic sense (although eroticism is certainly a potent element), but as a work of pure cinema, in which cinematography and nature combine as powerful forces of artistic expression, melded with a timeless parable of the human condition. Dialogue is sparse and precise, submitting to dreamlike atmosphere and imagery that is genuinely universal; this is the cinematic equivalent of a prehistoric cave drawing, telling a story for all humankind.
Woeful of the trappings of civilization, a young entomologist enjoys solitary fieldwork among the dunes of an oceanside village. Missing his bus to Tokyo, he accepts an invitation to stay in the home of a young widow, whose hut lies at the bottom of an ominous sand pit. He soon realizes that he has been trapped, and that his new role as surrogate husband--helping with the Sisyphean task of shoveling the daily torrent of windblown sand--has been forced on him by a mysterious conspiracy of villagers, who supply provisions from above via rope and pulley. As time passes, the man's initial fury gives way to gradual acceptance, until life in the sand pit seems preferable to attempted escape.
Hiroshi Teshigahara was a 37-year-old novice when he made this film, which received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film. Intimately observing the emotional arc of his characters, Teshigahara incorporates sex, desperation, ingenuity, suffering, pleasure, and much more into this hypnotic visual experience (accompanied by Toru Takemitsu's masterful score), in which sand becomes the third and most dominant character. With images and sequences that are hauntingly and unforgettably evocative, Woman in the Dunes remains a truly extraordinary work of cinematic art. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
WOMAN IN THE DUNES begins when a Japanese entomologist visits a remote and sandy area of Japan in search of rare specie of tiger beetle. Unfortunately, he misses the last bus back to town and has to sleep in the home of one of the villagers, something he thinks will be an interesting experience. I suppose he should have expected something strange was going on when he found out the house was at the bottom of a sandpit, but he doesn't seem to find this at all strange. What he does find strange, however, is that when he awakens during the night, the woman is not sleeping, but is, instead, outside shoveling sand away from the house. He goes back to sleep, thinking her bizarre behavior is really not his problem, but in the morning, he finds that the rope ladder he used to descent to the woman's house is gone and he is trapped.
The woman explains to her visitor that both her husband and daughter died in a sandstorm and now, her visitor is expected to remain and help her shovel the sand and send it up to the surface in buckets. In fact, it's necessary, she tells him, for she can't do it alone and, if they don't do it together, the house (as well as the neighboring house) will not only cave in, but the villagers above will have nothing to sell.
If the above doesn't seem to make any sense, then you've caught the point of the film very well. Life, it seems, is, more often than not, pointless. And, we are captives of this pointlessness.Read more ›
The obvious questions are why has this man been trapped and what is his role in the village? I won't go into the answers, but 'Woman in the Dunes' gives viewers a lot to think about and a lot to examine. Part allegory, part parable, part fable, 'Woman in the Dunes' is an absorbing story of loneliness, manipulation, and sexual energy.
'Woman in the Dunes,' if nothing else, is a glorious lesson in cinematography. The film's images are guaranteed to stay with you for a long, long time. In some ways, 'Woman in the Dunes' contains some of the most spectacular desert scenes ever filmed. They are not on the same scale of a film like 'Lawrence of Arabia,' but they are nonetheless spectacular. But the film is much, much more. This is a film you'll find yourself thinking about for a long time afterward.
2 hours, 3 minutes
An entomologist searches the desert for unknown beetles, hoping to achieve fame. Comfortable and careless, he assumes that he is in control of his world. Suddenly everything is reversed and he is trapped as completely as the beetles he arranges in display boxes. Wonderful to see a movie that talks about life in human and humane terms, instead of a plot-heavy paint-by-numbers formula from Hollywood. Watching at 20, I saw a parable about the precariousness of life and how easily a wrong step could doom a person to a life of drudgery. Now, at 50, the images of being trapped in the relentlessness of work seems less connected to the sand trap our hero finds himself in, and more a condition of life itself. By world standards those of us with DVDs and the leisure to watch them are wealthy indeed, but still the need to do the work that the world confronts us with remains. Work and eat. Don't work, don't eat. It's a simple reality that Teshigahara treats with compassion, dignity and beauty.
The imagery in the movie is out of this world as a young entymologist (studies bugs) wants to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and find a bug in the dunes of a rmote part of Japan that will make him famous. The bug he discovers is himself as, after missing the bus, he dropped into a sand pit in the dunes to help a young woman contiually dig the sand out of the hole while the villagers keep them fed just like worker bugs. Seems like the poor vilagers decided this was the cheapest way for them to avoind the sand dunes taking over the whole village.
It doesn't take long for our hero to realize that he's been tricked and he is now in about the same situation as one of the sand bugs he hunts for. (The director spoon feeds us several scenes in which the camera takes a super close ups of skin and hair that looks not unlike bug pictures on a museum wall) Although excape is not impossible our hero undergoes a metamorphisis as he discovers that he got there since he wanted to escape from it all and he certainly did. The inevitablility of sex in the dune is of course fulfilled but I got the distinct impression that our hero never really falls in love with the woman in the dunes but rather begins to understand her and the inevitability of her life.
The final decision then was his to make ....
Most recent customer reviews
Certainly, "Woman in the Dunes" is not for everybody. But I watched it two weeks ago, and am having a difficult time forgetting it. Read morePublished on March 20 2003 by Andrew M. Schirmer
Jeff Shannon in the editorial review really does justice to this movie in his 3 paragraphs.
the "Reviewer: A viewer from Miami, Florida" misses the point. Read more
I read the book on " Woman in the Dunes " and to my amazement the producer did a wonderful job portraying the story in great detail on this DVD ! ! Read morePublished on Oct. 9 2001 by Tony L. Alexander
A quiet, surreal, psychological horror story. There is much to contemplate in this tale of an entomologist, the woman with whom he is imprisoned, and the savage villagers who... Read morePublished on May 19 2001 by David Bonesteel
I am a college student majoring in film with an emphasis or writing and directing. We had to watch this film in one of my film classes. One word: junk. Read morePublished on Dec 8 2000 by betsy ross
"Woman in the Dunes" is easily one of my most favourite films, entrancingly visual and deeply thought-provoking. Read morePublished on May 24 2000
"Woman in the Dunes" is a minor classic of Japanese cinema; beautiful to watch, intriguing, and with a superb score and sound track by Toru Takemitsu. Read morePublished on March 22 2000 by Frederick Edell
Not as profound as critics would have you believe. The story makes the basic point that prisoners sometimes come to love their prisons and never want to leave. Read morePublished on March 7 2000
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