Hiroshi Teshigahara: Suna no onna. Japan. 1964

Adapted from Kōbō Abe’s 1962 novel of the same name, ‘Suna no onna’ (translated as ‘The Woman in the Dunes’) is the piercing vision of a remarkable film artist, Hiroshi Teshigahara. Trained in the Japanese traditions of ‘Ikebana’ and classical painting, his turn to cinema was distinctly an aesthetic choice. In ‘Suna no onna’, he translates cinematic frames into canvases for his expression, while telling a story resonating with the myth of Sisyphus, within the existential paradigm set up by authors like Albert Camus, whose work Teshigahara was familiar with. ‘Suna no onna’ is both a brooding and scathing critique of human reasoned argumentation (the man-of-science, the urban man, the man governed by explanations for everything), and an emphatic tribute to the intuitive knowledge of nature, that which is instinctive and intrinsic, that which has not undergone the distortions imposed by human reason. Ultimately, ‘Suna no onna’ transcends itself as a cultural product of early 1960s Japan, to make a universal and specific statement about the human condition. Watch.

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