Woman in the Dunes (Suna no Onna) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Woman in the Dunes (Suna no Onna) Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 3, 2009
An entomologist looking for bugs (he's looking for a specific one that will make a name for him in his peer group) in the sand of a seaside town misses the last bus of the night back to town and is convinced to spend the night in the home of a young woman, who lives in a small house in a mostly inaccessible sandpit, as do most of the other townsfolk. He slowly realizes that he has been tricked and that he is to stay there permanently. Thus begins a tale that is a metaphor for humans trapped in their existence and why they choose to not change their circumstances, even when given the opportunity...or at least partially about that. There's lots going on here. Beautiful photography of the sand dunes, and a couple of rather erotic love scenes between the two main characters. There is one potential sex scene that is pretty hard to watch, a bit reminiscent (to me anyway) of the "party scene" at the end of REQUEIM FOR A DREAM. The ending is left hanging a bit, and I haven't decided if the man's decision about his situation is a postive thing or a negative one.
Super Reviewer
April 5, 2008
the film is certainly gorgeous. the sand is mesmerizing. i didn't find it as 'erotic' as some however. i got the larger point about the futility of most of our activities but i didn't like what it seems to say about male-female relationships. even if it's true! lol
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2009
There is enough symbolism here to keep a whole team of cinematic existentialists busy for months. At its core, it's a film about a man who gets trapped in a hole. Too simplistic? Probably. It's the story of an entomologist who gets captured by a group of villagers and is forced to shovel sand along side the beautiful Kyoko Kishida (I could think of far worse fates). He spends most of his waking hours plotting his escape, but the longer he's there the more he feels obligated to his hole-mate. Is he falling in love? Is he learning the meaning of true freedom? Can he figure out a way to escape? Does he really want to? Is he an 'everyman' and the hole a representation of an oppressive society? Can I find a clever way to end this review?
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2007
"are you shoveling to survive, or surviving to shovel?" one lead asks this of the other, and it is a telling question because it was the same question that circled my mind through the entire film up until the point it was asked. without question, woman in the dunes is one of the most unique pictures ever filmed, and its uniqueness brought with it brilliance. the plot is actually absurd and there are a few questions left unanswered, but teshigahara also made sure to answer the most important questions to make this outlandish story actually seem believable on every level. the acting was superb especially okada playing the lead, and the premise of this non horror film was more terrifying than just about any horror film ive ever seen. the cinematography was astounding, some of the best ive ever seen, and the film was effective in everything it attempted from start to finish. the music was also especially perfect for the film. the end of the film didnt go my way at all, but it wasnt supposed to. a genuine masterpiece of cinema.
Super Reviewer
½ January 23, 2009
An entomologist, collecting specimens among some coastal sand dunes, is tricked by a group of villagers into spending the night at the house of a woman who lives at the bottom of a sand pit. Finding himself trapped by the steep, unstable sides of the pit, and at constant risk of inundation by the shifting dunes, the man is forced to help the woman shovel sand from around the house, not just to protect their shelter, but also in return for food and drink from the villagers, who market the sand as a construction material.

The only thing I don't like about this marvellous film is the hero, who constantly evolves but only from one species of asshole to the next; he's just impossible to like. He starts off as a figure of fun, whose petulant behaviour is less a natural response to his loss of liberty than an intellectual's aversion to manual labour. Before resignation finally settles in, he comes to view his sweet and docile companion as complicit in his capture, making the most of nearly every opportunity to treat her abominably. The film is exquisitely photographed and some of the shots of cascading sand are hypnotically beautiful. The spooky avant-garde soundtrack is very effective.
Super Reviewer
March 27, 2007
My sincerest apologies to all my flixster buds who loved this one. Walter, I would like to add this baby to your burgeoning list of "I could not sit through this" movies. No kidding, Walter, I tried three times over three nights. Sorry, flixster friends. It must just be me.
Super Reviewer
May 29, 2014
This is not your typical Japanese film. It is strange but very intriguing. I get the sense that there is a lot going on here that I am not perceiving but it doesn't scare me away from the film.
Robert B.
Super Reviewer
October 8, 2015
Woman in the Dunes is a must-see for anyone who loves black-and-white films. The cinematography has definitely earned this film some future rewatching, for me. The other elements of the film are above par, though not the greatest; the story is compelling, though it trails off at the end. While Woman In The Dunes is like the Twilight Zone meets 1960s Japanese cinema, still it is something beyond that and warrants a high rating.
Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2013
Woman in the Dunes is the most acclaimed of Teshigaharas films, and my personal favorite of the three. This reminds of a less horror version of Misery, with more of a raw creative motive. I find isolation to be one of the scariest concepts, and this touched some thought into me, of how far I'd go. It's a film desire, whether it's a desire to escape your current "prison", or desire of a radio. This film is also concentrated on deception. It seems character had a trick up their sleeves. And while it maybe predictable, it's still directed well enough, that climax and plot didn't matter. This film also had some detailed close up cinematography, which I enjoyed. The director seems (based on this and Face of Another) an obsession of the body, and this is shown in not only the sex scenes, but where the camera is focused.
Super Reviewer
½ September 4, 2009
Two and a half hours of a couple in a hole digging sand. Mostly. It doesn't sound much of a plot, but your brain can use the slow pace to fill in the gaps (why is she there? why is he there? why do the villagers put them there? what's going to happen next?) it's a lot more interesting than it sounds.
Super Reviewer
August 28, 2009
Wow. This movie is one of the most interesting horror/psychological thrillers I've ever seen. Nothing compares- the concept is just brilliant! I think I'm going to have nightmares involving sand for a longtime to come!
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2007
I read the novel of this years ago and I've often spoke of it as one of my favourites, but I've only just gotten around to seeing it and I must say I was blown away. A stylish tale by a master of cinema, I hear this being called erotic a lot, but it's so much more. The symbolism is fantastic, the futility and destruction of the sand, the pointlessness of standing up against it, and the moderate happiness in accepting it. A true masterpiece that lives up to the classic novel. Can't wait to see the rest of the Teshigahara films in the Criterion boxset.
January 28, 2016
It's easy to throw around superlatives like "riveting" when referring to films that provoke a significant response from a viewer, but it's not at all excessive to refer to Woman in the Dunes as such. Although the bulk of the film takes place in a hole, Teshigahara manages to find an incredible amount of visually stunning images in the supremely limited environment, these images supported by a great, unsettling score that plays up the film's science-fiction elements.

Woman in the Dunes is, first and foremost, a simple and powerful indictment of systemic inequality, the premise involving a woman trapped in a hole, endlessly shoveling sand for the sake of the larger system a perfect encapsulation of what it's like to live at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. No matter how hard she tries, she can't climb up the loose walls of sand. If she doesn't keep working, her house will be buried by it. When a man is added to the mix, the oppression of women also comes into play. The two live together in the dirt, clinging to one another out of desperation, and begin to believe that they belong where they are, their work providing them with a purpose. Their "superiors" give them just enough to survive, as well as opiates like alcohol and cigarettes to keep them complacent. They use them as a source of amusement as well as a source of income. Although the pair gains a further understanding of their environment that makes living bearable, escape is almost never possible. While it's certainly possible to read these developments as a commentary on the futility of human existence, it proves much more rewarding to view the film as a social satire instead; either way, it's an undeniable masterpiece.
December 12, 2014
This is a slow film but it is very interesting visually. The story plays out with ease and has a very surreal quality to it all.
½ December 8, 2013
Visually this movie is absolutely stunning, I never thought of sand having so many textures, let alone getting them captured on film, in lush B&W. The story is highly allegorical and is open to interpretation, but in its core, it's an existential drama and a Japanese social commentary that perhaps is a bit elusive to Westerners.
April 26, 2012
Sand and water; man and woman; sexual desire and loathing. I don't believe I've ever seen a film made available to the senses quite like Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes. One might say this is a film of whose roots are buried deep within the soil of contradiction.
March 20, 2011
I really enjoyed watching this film. The shots and overlays really add to the film style and storyline. The acting was great and compelling. Although the story is simple, with a minimal cast, it felt large and complex. I was surprised that as a visual media, how much my imagination still contributed to my viewing experience. It is a welcome and pleasant change to much of the "force fed" films being made today. Obviously this is not a film for everyone, as I know a lot of people who refuse to watch any foreign film. It is one that I recommend to anyone who likes classics, intelligent, mind-provoking, or art-house type films.
February 12, 2011
An amazing film! Apparently, even Japanese redneck like to abduct and torture city folk...

Basically, a teacher/bug collecter wanders into the wrong sand dune, and is tricked into captivity in a pit with a woman. And, at night, they shovel sand. Well, Mr. Teacher Man doesn't like the arrangement, and struggles to escape while trying to figure out exact what is going on.

This movie looks amazing. The cinematography is stunning. The abundance of close-ups emphasize the claustrophobic environment as well as serving as a microscope, studying the subjects, much like the teacher would study his bugs. After the movie finished, I felt like I should write a term paper on what I saw, like studying mice in a lab. It was a very interesting visual style. The close-ups also add a gritty feeling as the camera picks up every grain of sand.

The acting is excellent. The man and the woman play very well off each other, both thrown into an awkward situation, neither sure of how to proceed with each other. The set is great. Overall, just a wonderful movie with a lot of symbolism, if you're into that stuff, but which also is great just on its own.

Highly recommended.
January 15, 2011
This is what film was made for, for the art of film rarely if ever reaches this level of genius. Symbolic and haunting, it changes perspectives.
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