Tag Archives: Hiroshi Teshigahara

XL Popcorn – Woman in the Dunes

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 833/1007Title: Suna no onna (Woman in the Dunes)
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Year: 1964
Country: Japan

When you read the synopsis for this film, the image that is conjured is the love child of The Wicker Man and In The Realm of the Senses. Both Wikipedia and Letterboxd really made me ask the question of would I be ready for such a film and how could I not. In the end, this was not the graphic film that I was expecting – instead it was something a whole lot better.

I enjoy a good psychological thriller, especially one that uses a limited set in order to give a palpable sense of claustrophobia – this is why Rope is one of my favourite Hitchcock films. Rarely have I gone into a film with such a sense of sensory trepidation only to be rewarded with something that is at times subtle and yet still maintains tension throughout.

Picture this, a man collecting bugs as part of his holiday only to miss the last bus home. He is lured into staying with a local villager – only to find her house is in a sandpit where the only escape is a rope ladder… which is then pulled up from after you and your only means to live is to dig sand in return for rations. It’s horrific and taps into the fundamental human fear of entrapment and being watched.

The film is a two hander as the newly imprisoned man and the already institutionalised woman navigate being trapped together and trying to survive as their house is under constant threat of being enveloped by an unclimbable sand pit. Unlike the sand in an hourglass, the film plays with time to the point where you are unsure just how long he has spent trapped there… until the final reveal at the end where all is revealed.

As well as the exquisite tension and performances, there is the brilliant direction of some of the best sand scenes that I have ever seen in cinema. Seriously, this is some serious Lawrence of Arabia style sand direction – maybe even better than that. This was a really good surprise and really does proof you shouldn’t judge a film based solely on the synopsis.