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Woman in the Dunes

Alright Beelzebubbles, just cleared some time for Woman in the Dunes so here's the review I promised you!

Woman in the Dunes(1964)

In approaching Woman in the Dunes, like many Hiroshi Teshigahara films that precurse it, one must think in the realm of metaphors and interpretations underneath the visual surface. If one looks at Woman in the Dunes with this prior intention, the interpretation of Teshigahara's film becomes very clear from outset. What we see during the opening credits is fingerprints, (presumably belonging to our central character), we don't know our characters name throughout the film until the end, in which, at that moment, it completely becomes irrelevant to the nature of the man himself; rather it acts as the final word on the illustrated point. With his fingerprints seen we cut to sand dunes which, as it so happens, resembles the texture of fingerprint identification. What is the synthesis of this cinematic combination? Teshigahara is illustrating right away that the film's current will reside in man's identification with himself.

While this point is made from its outset, and much throughout the film itself, Teshigarhara never lays all his cards out on the table until the very end. He knows he has already won the intellectual game, however he keeps the viewer guessing which card he will deck out next. The end result, no matter how ambiguous, still remains as clear as the water our character sees himself in at the end. No matter, at the beginning of the film our character asks himself, "Who am I in my ID, Passport, etc." (again hammering the point of personal identification), then he asks himself a deeper question, "What of man and woman?" This question isn't resolved until the end of the film.

Originally it is thought that the main character is a teacher who happens to work with rare species of bug living in the desert. He too is of a vocation which identifies, classifies, and captures life. He from the start is a microcosm of his soon to be reality. When he is "tricked" into living in the sand dunes with the woman, from which there is no escape, that is when the deeper meditation, "What of man and woman?" begins to unravel. This doesn't come all at once, and for its own sake it shouldn't have to, Teshigahara realizes that saving the knock-out punch until the end is much more rewarding. So much as the question is meditated on our characters mind. So is it in ours. What we see unraveling before us for the next hour and a half is a pure illustration of man's role in the world. Will he dig the (metaphorical) dirt in the (metaphorical) dune? Or will he choose not to and (metaphorically) dry up? And what happens when he (metaphorically) releases himself from his confines (a person who tries desperately to rid and deny himself of his true identity)? He becomes lost in the sea of endless dunes with people who are more than willing to drop him back into his reality.

Throughout much of the film, one feels the sense that this man's place is that of a teacher who works with insects. However a striking scene emerges where he throws the woman's tiny beads into the floor of sand. Then though a conversation, something arises. If not living in the dunes, where else? We shovel the metaphorical dirt at work so we can maintain our metaphorical dune, our household and lively hood. Is this life that much different from the outside? Suddenly there is a change of heart from our central character and he decides he will help her find the beads his thrown from her grasp while she sifts them through a sifter. The metaphor: The woman has brought the man visual clarity.

Yet the deeper question still remains unclear until the end? "What of man and woman?" I will not illustrate in my review what happens in the film, rather I will allude to it with a question, "What roles do men and women play in society? What is our identity in our sex? And who of which, will remain shoveling dirt once this life, (bestowed man or woman), has come to a close." If you give this question some thought, you will see clarity. Much like the woman sifting clarity through the sand of the dunes.

My Rating:

4 1/2 Stars of 5