Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s aptly if also strangely titled “Woman in the Dunes” is a moving, memorable allegory about an entomologist (Eiji Okada), who becomes trapped in a sandpit.

Born in Tokyo in 1927, Hiroshi was the eldest son of Sofu Teshigahara, the founder of Sogetsu School of Ikebana (Japanese school of flower arrangement). Hiroshi followed in the footsteps of his father and went on to distinguish himself in various artistic endeavors: As a sculptor, painter, Iemoto (headmaster) of the Sogetsu School, and filmmaker.

In his films and art works, Teshigahara has questioned the status quo, challenging our perceived notions of such issues as the role of art in everyday life, the relationship between human beings and their environment, permanence versus transience.

Teshigahara’s philosophy is that art should collide with nature. In their encounter with nature, human beings and objects create an altogether new space; the function of art (and film) is to create from these elements a space heretofore unknown.

A popular art film in the 1960s, Woman in the Dunes was shown in film festivals all over the world. At the time, many viewers were both impressed and perplexed by the film’s pacing and stylized cinematography (by Hiroshi Segawa).

Woman in the Dunes reflects as well as comments on the unique aspects of Japanese culture.

Running Time: 123 minutes

Oscar Nominations: 2

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Foreign Language Film

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

“Woman in the Dunes” won a special jury prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. Though nominated for Best Foreign-Language Oscar, it lost to the Italian entry, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” starring Sophia Loren.

Teshigahara was the first Japanese filmmaker to receive a Best Director nomination, the winner, however, was Robert Wise for the musical “The Sound of Music.”