Reviews of Woman in the Dunes
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Estamos a cultivar para sobreviver, ou a sobreviver para podermos cultivar?
Por mais que tentemos escapar ao sistema, à ordem das coisas, tendemos sempre a voltar à mesma situação, como um remoinho, um sugador de almas, algo que nos impossibilita de sermos livres, ou pelo menos, completamente livres, ainda que o possamos ser na mesma, mas de uma maneira austera. Somos meros corpos que se deslocam debaixo do céu celestial, meras almas sem rumo nem vontade, olhando para a vida com leviandade, trabalhando como se não bastasse. Todos os -ismos desta terra se juntam num só. O ser humano é apenas um, embora a mente humana teime em criar obstáculos a essa mesma unicidade, diferença de classes, espectáculo gratuito, ideologias baratas. Sobrevivemos pela ilusão de que a morte é a última a chegar e que, até lá, tudo é legítimo. Tudo é viver. Nada é morrer.
Verdade. Também é verdade que a liberdade tem limites, não a do indivíduo, mas a do indivíduo mais próximo de si. É essa mesma liberdade que, também ela, sobrevive na ilusão de, simplesmente, existir. Até um dia— quando descobrimos que não era da liberdade que estávamos propriamente à procura… mas do sentido da vida, do significado de viver. A liberdade é apenas um meio – a ausência dela, é opressão; o excesso, é voltar ao sítio de onde partimos. Dar uma volta inteira, sem saber porque a demos. Mas demos. Só que não chega. É preciso mais. É preciso cultivar o nosso próprio ser, a nossa origem, o nosso destino. Assim fomos, somos e seremos.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Woman in the Dunes is a classic Japanese film from 1964 that explores themes of society, alienation and human nature from a very offbeat point of view. It has become a film who’s images and meanings are hard to shake even today, a couple of weeks after watching it. A man from one of the most populous cities in the world is kidnapped and placed in a deep hole in the sand, big enough to hold a house and a woman looking for a new husband. He spends the rest of the movie trying to escape, and yet does he really want to go back? What is he going back for or to? Is the world of the big city just as confining as this pit in the beach? These are just a couple of the easier questions that are asked in this engrossing movie. Quite a different movie than I had expected. For some reason, I thought I was getting a murder mystery, with the woman in the dunes being a body that was discovered!
Niki Jumpei is a government worker who tracks down bugs on the beach as a hobby. He gets stranded after he misses the last train back one day and gets offered a place to stay for the night. He accepts and is led through the growing darkness to a very deep, wide, pit in the beach, where there is a small two room shack at the bottom. He thinks it all very quaint, although the climb down the 20’ walls is a bit challenging in the dark. He finds a widow living there, who feeds him and then heads out for a night’s worth of work, shoveling sand of all things.
A couple of mysterious comments from the woman confuse him, but it becomes a little clearer in the morning when he tries to leave and finds the rope ladder has been pulled up and he can’t get out. The woman explains the town in the sand needs shovelers to keep the sand from collapsing the walls of all the other houses in the sand. And obviously, good men are hard to find here! He tries to rebel, refusing to work, but they cut off food and water and he finally cracks and begins to contribute.
He doesn’t stop trying to escape, though, and finally manages to rig a rope with a hook. He has a big night with the woman, ensuring her sound sleep. Using the rope, he clambers out and makes a run for it. Soon he is being chased and eventually gets caught and tossed back in. It’s at this point he begins to see the effect his leaving had on the woman and he really begins to think about his life and what goes on around him.
Just writing up the synopsis above makes me want to see the movie again. The cinematography was brilliant, with all kinds of great shots, from the expected far away shots of a man climbing the dunes, to ultra-closeups of, of course, sand. And water, an important adjuct to sand in the plot. It isn’t nearly as artsy fartsy as the description may sound and you really are tied up in the man, his growing relationship with the woman, and with his increasing uneasiness with society, which reflect her feelings as well. When she first asks him why he is in such a hurry to get back to the city, he thinks her insane to accept life in a hole in the ground. But you can see his growing understanding of her point of view as the movie goes on.
The print is well done, although there are no extras really on this DVD. The director has a real short list of credits, although I guess he was pretty influential in Japanese cinema. I really enjoyed this movie and look forward to watching it again.
Woman In the Dunes is one of the greatest Films I’ve ever seen. It’s a sparkling gem in the Japanese Films of the 1960s. I was captivated in the first few minutes alone, and already had a sense that something terrible was going to happen in the Film, and I was right. Hiroshi Teshigahara’s idea of a grown Man doing something at his own free will, knowing little that we was being abducted from the world he knew, is genius. He jumps into the situation almost right off the bat, without actually jumping into it, if that makes sense. His approach to the revelation of the abduction is subtle and really keeps you guessing. That credit largely goes to Eiji Okada and Kyoko Kishida, who played their parts brilliantly. The movie was dull, in a sense, but I was never bored. I was thoroughly enjoying every second of Film, and I was convinced by the ideas and the performances. The score was great and gave the movie its foreboding feeling, it was perfect. I love black and white Films in the first place, but Woman In the Dunes was absolutely stunning, visually. Perfect lighting, perfect angles, perfect direction. It’s a true masterpiece.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Woman In The DunesThe strength of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman In The Dunes lies in its resistance to the temptation to tell the audience exactly what they want to hear. It would be easy, for example, for Teshigahara to throw the film’s sympathy behind its nameless focal character-an innocent man, who takes a trip one day to study bugs and finds himself the captive of strangers, at the bottom of a sandy pit, and forced to work against his will alongside a strange woman for the structural security and (illegal) economic benefit of his captors’ village. Instead, we find ourselves gravitating more towards the eponymous “Woman in the dunes,” whom the man is forced to live with. She wishes only to continue her lot in life, shoveling sand for the benefit of the village, and is appreciative that she now has someone to help her in her work and someone to speak to, whereas the supposed “hero” of the film is depicted as bitter, constantly feeling sorry for himself. He certainly has a right to be bitter, but the film does not care, and as we learn more about the selfless woman, we care less about the bitter man.
For much of the film, the man concerns himself only with escaping, trying any and all methods to scale the ever-eroding sand walls of the pit. The image evoked is the struggle of Sisyphus, the man who is damned for eternity to pushed a boulder up a hill. Like Sisyphus, his attempts to complete his task are futile, but unlike Sisyphus, the only thing compelling him to do so is himself-he can stop trying whenever he likes. At one point he manages to escape, by constructing crude climbing tools out of bedsheets and scissors. He runs through the night, pursued by the villagers who have dogs and flashlight, becomes stuck in quicksand and is returned to the pit by his captors. It becomes clear that these dunes are some sort of Sartrean hell from which he can never leave. The question is, were he to escape, to what would he be escaping? A monologue towards the opening of the film details the man’s disillusionment with identity as defined by society, through documents and numbers. He relates to the woman that his bug-research jaunt was intended as an escape from that world, and she can’t understand why he wants so badly to leave the pit. By this time they have forged a relationship, affectionate and at times passionate. He accidentally stumbles upon a way to draw water up from beneath the sand using a barrel he originally intended to trap crows, and he works on perfecting it so that him and the woman may become self-sufficient, rather than depending on their captors to deliver their water. He has love and a sense of purpose in the pit, rather than the hollow identity of social paperwork and government IDs. Though he is a prisoner, he becomes free in another, less obvious sense of the word, but he doesn’t realize it immediately.
The realization comes to him after a harrowing sequence, which is the best in the film, wherein he is offered a chance to leave the pit and see the ocean by the villagers, if he will have sex with the woman in front of them as live pornographic theater. Tantalized by the prospect of at last leaving the pit, he begs the woman to agree to their demands. She refuses, and he goes into a mad frenzy and attempts to rape her while the villagers look on with sick amusement. The wrestle on the ground for awhile, she fights him off and retreats back into the house, leaving him ashamed in the dark as his captors stare down at him. It is here that he at long last understands his existence in Sartrean terms, and the true nature of this particular No Exit situation: If Hell, as Sartre suggests, is other people, then to be in this pit, alone but for the simple pleasures of love and a sense of identity, with colossal sand dunes standing between him and the evils of society, then he very well may be in a sort of heaven.
Thoroughly fascinating, heavily existential, technically competent, strongly structured and crafted, Woman in the Dunes is utterly fantastic and amongst the greatest films I have ever seen. Packed with nihilistic and undeniably truthful observations about human nature, set in endlessly shifting sand, which Teshigahara happens to be a genius at shooting, it is no wonder why this film is a new personal favourite. It also happens to be an engaging thriller; there’s something for the whole family.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.