Woman in the Dunes





Woman in the Dunes

The Woman in the Dunes is a film by Toru Takemitsu, an appropriation from an award-winning novel by Kobi Abe under the same title, depicts the struggles of a man trying to escape from an oppressive state imposed upon him by society. In my opinion, the film has ambiguous themes to facilitate diverse interpretation. According to my interpretation, the film reflects a man’s journey towards self-actualization in the least expected circumstance. The film is an aphorism of a man making the best out of a bleak reality. The viewer is led to conclude that a person’s plans for his life and the unraveling of circumstances are often binary but it is one’s choice to become frustrated or satisfied by the outcome. The film highlights that accepting one’s fate simplifies life and enables a person to start living.

The man in the film strives for solitude to facilitate his actualization. He quests towards the discovery of a rare species of beetles that will elevate his status in society (Woman in the Dunes Teshigahara). In the course of his search for fulfillment, he is thrust into the solitude he sought with a different manifestation, in a pit with a shabby woman (Abe 4). An isolation he had not anticipated, it is in the course of this enslavement that he makes a groundbreaking discovery. While attempting his escape from the pit, he discovers a technique of recovering water from moist sand. Hitherto, he had multiple documents, certificates, ID cards, contracts, deeds, licenses, for impression management purposes without an achievement to his name.

At this primordial state, condemned to survive of the bare necessities, food, sleep, sex, and work, the futility of life of revealed. The captives exist at the pleasure of marginalized villagers surviving at the periphery of society (Abe 6). Life at the fringes is all about survival. The film reveals a chain of oppression in life with downtrodden subjugating those at a lower station than themselves. The villagers’ oppression of the man and the woman distracts them from their own deprived state. It follows that both the captors and the captives are prisoners, victims of an oppressive society. The futility of life makes the man to reassess his escape plans becoming complacent with his oppressed state armed with the truth that the outside world in more or less the same. Similarly, his growing affection for the woman gets him grounded, he recognizes that he has stumbled onto something special absent in the outside world.

The viewer is led to believe that the awareness of an achievable goal is a source of frustration. His female counterpart is borne of enslavement thus is oblivious of a life under different circumstance (Woman in the Dunes Teshigahara). The man attempts to enlighten the woman of the vast possibilities but to her freedom is a foreign concept. In fact, she is not aware of her deprived state. For one to escape or aspire to elevate their status in society, they must be equipped with knowledge of their preferred destination. After observing their life together, he recognizes that the knowledge meant to liberalize him imprisons him. The man has high expectations about his life of recognition and fame that have proven to be unattainable. I am of the opinion that his life becomes satisfactory when his focus shifts from the unattainable. By appreciating his current blessings his first discovery, and the presence of endearing companion, he becomes contented, even when the opportunity to escape avails itself he would rather remain in the pit.


Works Cited

Abe, Kōbō. “Woman in the Dunes. Translated by E. Dale Saunders.” (1964). Print.

Woman in the Dunes. Dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara. By Kôbô Abe. Perf. Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, and Hiroko Itô. Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd., Teshigahara Productions, 1964. DVD.


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