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Woman of the Dunes

(Suna no onna)

Dir: Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964, Japan, 124 mins, 35mm, Cert: 15

Wed 21 June // 20:00

Tickets: £5 (full) / £4 (concession)

Book tickets

One of the great Japanese classics of the 60s, Woman of the Dunes (based on the novel by existentialist writer Kobo Abe) was for many the grand unveiling of the surreal, idiosyncratic world of Hiroshi Teshigahara and remains as mystifying, serene and provoking as when it was first released.

Eiji Okada plays an amateur entomologist who has come from Tokyo to study an unclassified species of beetle that resides in a remote, vast desert; when he misses his bus he is persuaded to spend the night in the home of a young widow (Kyoko Kishida) who lives in a hut at the bottom of a sand dune. He wakes to find himself trapped with his life depending upon his ability and willingness to shovel a daily torrent of sand that threatens to collapse the widow’s home. As the days, weeks and months pass his desire for freedom ebbs away, and his frustration at his entrapment moves from belief in the possibility of escape to resignation to his situation.

Out of this highly bizarre, if simple, situation, Teshigahara builds one of cinema’s most bristling, unnerving, and palpably erotic battles of the sexes, as well as a nightmarish depiction of everyday Sisyphean struggle.

Winner of a Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1964 and nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film and Best Director, this is a work of great visual inventiveness and beauty featuring startling high-contrast black and white photography from Hiroshi Segawa and a minimalist score by Toru Takemitsu.

Presented alongside La Prisonnière (Wed 28th June), as a loosely themed exploration of restriction, repression, ennui and empowerment through enslavement and assimilation, these immensely striking and very different films offer an entry into their confined and astoundingly visual worlds, and hopefully a safe landing in the Cube auditorium at the end…

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office.