Thursday, January 2, 2014

420. Suna no onna

Suna no onna
The Woman in the Dunes
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Well my sister/best friend just moved to England for six months which means this day is going to be devoted to movies and other distractions that I can think of to do without taking off my pajamas.  My misery is your reading material, ladies and gentlemen.

Japanese films rarely disappoint and this is no exception.  This is the story of Junpei, who gets tricked into entering a sand quarry with no escape.  A young widow is the only inhabitant and they are forced everyday to try to prevent the house (and themselves) from being buried by sand.  Romance ensues which leads to sand sex which must be...uncomfortable to say the least.

One of the saddest moments comes when Junpei is explaining to the widow how he will be rescued.  He says that once he fails to go come to work, his colleagues will come to his apartment looking for him.  They will see that he has a book open about his location and will be able to tell where he has gone.  The reality is, we always seem to overestimate our own importance in the world.

I have been researching this film on the internet and a lot of people seem to think the woman symbolizes how men become trapped in a relationship and eventually settle down to their fate though they still craze their freedom.  While this is an extremely unflattering portrait of women, I can definitely see where they are coming from.  I looked at it in a more positive way.  Anything can become bearable, even being trapped in a sandy hole in the ground, if you have someone you love with you.  Oh, that and we are all entirely insignificant and no one would miss us if we were gone.

This is definitely a must see movie and I look forward to hearing other theories about the film in the comments sections.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Junpei captures an antlion at one point in the film.  An antlion digs a hole in the sand and waits for insects to drop in so they can eat them.  Ooooo symbolism.

Available on YouTube:


  1. Ah, great .. well done for getting to this one.

    This one still stands out of one of my greatest 'discoveries' I gain by following 'The Book'

    I wouldn't restrict the interpretation of this film to such a narrow gender bias... but I certainly can see the reading about the pit representing married domesticity.. being - sort of - trapped, having to lose some things, yet gaining others. That it can be seen as a trap at times .. but when he gets the chance to escape .. well he comes back. Not necessarily women 'trapping' men, but any person, any gender 'trapping the other.
    The photography was stunning .. years later I can still see the sand shifting.. and I still feel the mood of this film.

    Totally Off Topic.and a question I asked Andrew (you may have seen it there).. Have you .. and take that as either you personally, or the USA in general - had 'Sherlock fever'.. The modernisation version of Sherlock Holmes stories with martin freeman / Benedict Cumberpatch?
    We had the first episode in series 3 last night...

    Even more off topic, where in England is your sister/Friend come to? I bet it's well down south, London ..but if she is up North.. Carlisle, Lake district area.. please tell her she is welcome to get in touch if she wishes or ever needs any help.

  2. The sand shifting was fascinating, I agree. And I like your take on it that extends it beyond just the "women are traps" metaphor.

    I haven't actually seen your comments on Andrew's blog, which I miss, because his recent comments thing is broken. But I love Sherlock! I can't believe series 3 is already out there; we have to wait until the 19th I think.

    She is London right now but I think she might be traveling around so I will definitely keep that in mind for her. Thank you so much!

  3. Ah, so it is not just me.. (that the 'recent comments thing) is not working.

    I am really impressed by the updated Sherlock (and that is from someone who generally dislikes 'remakes'). I love the passing references to other cases and the way things are adapted to the modern world.(and that is from someone who can only partial use a computer and has no idea how to use a smart ass phone).. So, the 19th you get to see it? All the best. I will refrain from ANY hints, other than to say be prepared to watch it twice,as early bits will make no sense till later.

    As for your Sister .. if she is in London.. Well, i am about as far from London as it is possible to b before you stray into Scotland, so perhaps no use.. But I run a Youth hostel, and i know things.. so if she ever needs help or advice. I can send you my personal Email / phone number should she need to just as a 'local' ever.

  4. That is really nice; thank you so much! I will let you know and who knows, maybe someday we will come to your hostel (we come to England a lot).

    I just watched the Sherlock premiere through sources...ahem. I really liked it and I teared up at the end. I especially liked their take on the novel A Study in Scarlet. That serial killer was really freaky.

  5. I too was quite impressed with this movie. I think the symbolism goes a bit wider. Yes, the man is trapped in the marriage, but the real victim is them woman. She is permanently trapped, with no outlook, hopes or ambitions of getting out. Her lot is acceptance because there is no other was. Debase and disgrace herself, do what she must, there is no alternative. At least the man knows there is ia world outside.

    1. Completely agree. It's like a Guy de Maupassant novel.

  6. I was going to go to the beach tomorrow. Not so sure now.

    I thought that if he could give up his insect collection - his own prisoners kept in holes that he peers at - that this would be the symbolic moment which allowed the film to set him free at the end. But even when he did, the escape didn't happen.

    Very good though. I expect this one to stay in my memory for a long time.

    I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes and it constantly frustrates me that almost none of the many screen adaptions are any good. In different ways (not so many different ways, to be frank) they turn him into a facile cartoon. But the Cumberbatch / Freeman versions are excellent. The Jeremy Brett series of the 1980s was also superb, probably the best. Did you know that Hugh Laurie's House is actually a version of Sherlock Holmes (House-Ho(l)mes - geddit?). Not really my type of program, but a better Holmes adaption than most.

    One question though, they did him falling off the roof as their version of the Reichenbach falls. And then he returned, as per Conan Doyle's Holmes. But the only explanations were all dismissed as false. Did I miss something? Is there a plan to reveal what happened in the future? Is it intended to never explain? I know there is an actual solution as the writers have talked about keeping it secret between series and how no one had guessed it yet (at the time). But what is it?

  7. Dessie ... It was a cop-out. No full, satisfactory, explanation was given. Some were suggested, but non as the definitive one. i believe the writers admitted it was deliberate, they wanted viewers to make their own mind up about the solution, in that (allegedly) several were possible.
    I cry 'cheat'