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Cult Vault #33: Nick Broomfield on The Woman of the Dunes

Documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield on Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Woman of the Dunes

Taken from the January 2013 issue of Dazed & Confused: 

“Filmed in high-contrast monochrome with the most incredible images, it’s impossible to do justice here to this erotic and controversial film. An entomologist (played by Eiji Okada) collecting insects is tricked into spending the night with a woman who lives at the bottom of a sandpit. This becomes a nightmare when he realises that not only can he not escape, but they must shovel sand everyday or they will be engulfed and perish. In a metaphor for our emotional detachment from so much of life, Okada asks the woman (Kyoko Kishida), “Are you shovelling to survive, or surviving to shovel?” 

Okada, who repeatedly tries to escape but fails, asserts his control over her by tying her up and remaining emotionally detached. He abuses her verbally and physically. Eventually though, his anger at being manipulated and used by her is dissipated. This happens slowly over time via their obvious sexual attraction to each other, in a series of highly erotic and sexual scenes, which I remember caused an absolute sensation in my schooldays, and which are just as good today.” 

Nick Broomfield will be introducing his choice on January 27 at the Barbican as part of its Seven Deadly Sins series