Archive for February 9th, 2011

Woman In the Dunes

There’s a film starting in a few moments on TCM that really intrigued me, one I’d never heard of before.  It’s a Japanese film from 1964 whose title translates to Woman in the Dunes.  When I read the description I had to go back and read it several times to make sure I was understanding it fully.  It said “A Japanese entomologist is trapped with widow in a sand pit.” 

That was it. 

My mid began to twirl into imaginations of what this story could be.  It didn’t sound like any story I had heard before and that is pretty rare in a world where most narratives are simply variations on well worn tales.  It turns out that the story is of a man who is collecting bugs for research stumbles upon village situated among the seaside dunes.  Asking if there is a place to stay in the poor village, the locals tell him he can stay in a house that is located at the bottom of one of the large sand pits which apparently are used to produce sand for the concrete industry.  The house is inhabited by a widow.

He descends into the pit and the next day discovers that the rope ladder leading down into the pit has been removed and that he is trapped.  The  widow it seems is a prisoner whose purpose is to constantly shovel the sand into baskets.  She shovels to produce sand for the villagers and to keep her ramshackle home, and herself,  from being buried.  There’s an element of Sisyphus here.

The story becomes an existential tale of the entomologist struggling to escape then becoming accepting of his situation and living with the widow for many years, even after he realizes he could easily escape.

It sounds like such an absurd premise, especially to face at 6:30 in the morning, that I must take a look…

Here’s the trailer for it from 1964:

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