Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Woman in the Dunes
Woman in the Dunes (砂の女, Suna No Onna, also translated as Woman of the Dunes), is a novel by Kobo Abe and a film based on that novel directed by Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara. The novel was published in 1962, and the film was released in 1964. Kobo Abe also wrote the screenplay for the film version.
The surreal, and at times absurd, nature of Woman in the Dunes has drawn many comparisons to such major existentialist works as Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit and Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. Aside from its intriguing premise, this film is notable for the life that Teshigahara brings to the ever shifting sand, which almost becomes a character in its own right.
Somewhat unusually for an avant-garde film, Woman in the Dunes was successful in gaining attention at the major film award ceremonies. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 1964 Cannes film festival, and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in the same year (losing out to Italian film Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow ). In 1965 Teshigahara was nominated for the Best Director Oscar (finishing behind Robert Wise for The Sound of Music).
An entomologist named Jumpei (Eiji Okada ) is on an expedition in an area of sand dunes, as he is about to go home a group of locals suggest he stays the night in their village, he accepts. They send him down a rope-ladder to a house at the bottom of a sandpit, where a young widow (Kyoko Kishida ) lives alone. She has been tasked by the villagers with digging for water, a seemingly futile task, and with preventing the sands from destroying the house (if her house succombs to the desert then the other houses in the village will be threatened).
When Jumpei tries to leave the next morning he finds the ladder has gone, the villagers inform him that he must help the widow in her endless task of digging sand. Jumpei initially tries to escape, upon failing he takes the widow captive, but is forced to release her when the house almost collapses after several days of sand build up outside.
Jumpei eventually becomes the widow's lover and resigns himself to his fate, and sets himself the task of discovering a water source for their house. The focus of the film shifts to the way in which the couple cope with the oppressiveness of their condition, and the power of their physical attraction in spite of - or possibly because of - their situation.
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