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WOMAN IN THE DUNES

Japan, 1964 (MIFF 1965)

Director: Hiroshi Teshigawa

Woman in the Dunes is the second film of Hiroshi Teshigawara. It tells of a teacher, an amateur entomologist, who is on holiday, and led by villagers to stay overnight in a house which is at the bottom of a deep pit amongst the dunes. He finds that he is trapped there, in the company of a strange woman whose life work is to scoop out the sand which threatens to engulf the house, and the rest of the village. He is forced to help, and becomes more and more involved in her life. For months his desperate attempts to escape prove useless, but finally when he has come to accept his position, freedom becomes possible.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, this is one of the strangest and most tauntingly beautiful films made. The story is simple, but its texture is complex. The strange dialogue between the two characters has a quality rare for a Japanese film — meanings shift like the dunes. From the opening images the director a former painter, plays on the ambiguity of appearances. To this allegory of human society probing fundamental questions of alienation and identity, Teshigawara has given a richness and visual poetry as difficult to describe as it is fascinating to experience.

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