Analysing sand metaphors in the film, Woman of the Dunes (Teshigahara, 1964) Chao-‐chi Lau 劉
Student ID: LAU10305776 BA (Hons) Graphic Product Innovation. London College of Communication University of the Arts London February 2013
ABSTRACT This essay interrogates the metaphors of sand in Woman of the Dunes (1964), directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara. The film is critically analysed as a primary source of inspiration and information in context to frame it as a case study. The essay will first be anchored in contemporary Japanese cinema to give the essay topic wider context and the appropriate background knowledge required to interpret its messages and meaning. The critical context will be made up from the key references of Judith Shatnoff (1964), David Mitchell (2006a, 2006b), and a selection of reviews on the film. In addition, other sources of critical context come from an essay by the Japanese Film expert, Mitsuyo Wada-‐Marciano (2007) and the analysis of the film itself, Woman of the Dunes. The methodology of this essay will discuss the associations of sand, as a material and in terms of its cultural meaning in a cross section of contexts. The plot of Woman of the Dunes will be chronologically followed to frame the role of sand in the narrative in the film. The meaning of a metaphor and how it becomes useful in film will be introduced in order for the reader to understand the method of analysis. The essay will then follow with the analysis of Woman of the Dunes. It will look at how sand is used to signify existential narratives that represent not only those of the protagonist’s but to a wider audience (the wider audience is implied by critics as being human kind). Secondly, an analysis of the metaphors in how sand represents a prison will be introduced, “physically and spiritually” (Shatnoff, 1964. Page 43) and how this relates to the film is a metaphor for the female protagonist, the anonymous Woman. The essay will then consider the wider implications of metaphor in film by briefly analysing the film, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … And Spring (Kim, 2003) to understand how another film uses the natural landscape to represent the emotional landscape of the characters. These areas will make up the analysis of sand metaphors in Woman of the Dunes.
CONTENTS LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS__________________________________________________Page 5 INTRODUCTION_________________________________________________________Page 7 • Notes to the reader CHAPTER ONE_________________________________________________________Page 9 • The emergence of Woman of the Dunes from The Japanese New Wave: A Brief Overview • The narrative context of Woman of the Dunes •
Material and cultural associations of sand
The critical context of the Woman of the Dunes
CHAPTER TWO________________________________________________________ Page 16 • Defining “metaphor” •
Sand as a macro metaphor of a wider audience
Sand as a metaphor of a physical and mental prison
Sand metaphors of "the Woman”
CHAPTER THREE_______________________________________________________Page 24 • Woman of the Dunes in relation to Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… And Spring. CONCLUSION_________________________________________________________Page 27 BIBLIOGRAPHY________________________________________________________Page 28 APPENDIX____________________________________________________________Page 31
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS All image stills from Woman of the Dunes have been gathered by the author. Figure 1: Title Page Top to Bottom: Image stills from Woman of the Dunes (70 minutes, 10 minutes, 42 minutes, 10 minutes, 54 minutes, 92 minutes. ______________________Page 1 Figure 2: Village in the dunes. Viewed from the above. (10 minutes.)_____________Page 10 Figure 3: Chihuly, D. (2001) Rotunda Chandelier. Found in the Grand Entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. ___________________________________________Page 12 Figure 4: A sand timer that measures the elapse of one minute. ________________Page 13 Figure 5: One of Japan’s most revered rock gardens in Ryoan-‐ji Temple, Kyoto. (Holborn, 1978. Page 62) ________________________________________________________Page 13 Figure 6. Left to Right. Dialogue in which sand is framed at an elementary level but then more subtle meanings are implied. (17 minutes.) _____________________________Page 14 Figure 7: The very first frame of the film: a magnification of a single grain of sand. (1 Minute) _____________________________________________________________________Page 17 Figure 8: Left to Right. The following shots after the magnification of one grain of sand. (1 minute) ______________________________________________________________Page 17 Figure 9: Left to Right. By use of parallel bars, it is visually represented that the sand is a prison for the protagonist. (39 minutes. 39 minutes. 39 minutes.) _______________Page 19 Figure 10. Left to Right: an insect is pierced and kept as part of a collection. (19 minutes.) _____________________________________________________________________Page 20 Figure 11. Left to Right. The documentation of a caterpillar becomes a metaphor of the mental and physical entrapment narrative. (5 minutes) ________________________Page 20
Figure 12: Left to Right. A sand metaphor of an insect struggling in the sand is used after the audience learns of the Woman’s struggle. (134 minutes. 134 minutes.) ___________Page 22 Figure 13: The main character treads sand just as the insect treads sand later on in the film, giving validation a sand metaphor of narrative in the film. (34 minutes.) __________Page 22 Figure 14: Left to Right. It is suggested that the landscape of the dunes becomes visually difficult to separate with the body and skin of the woman. (10 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes.) ____________________________________________________________Page 23 Figure 15: Left to right. Floating monastery that the film centres around and the two main characters. (3 minutes, 3 minutes.) ________________________________________Page 24 Figure 16: Left to Right. As a young boy, he tortures a fish and then has a rock strapped to him as punishment. The cycle of punishing repeats when as an adult, he ties a rock to himself. (11 minutes, 15 minutes, 92 minutes.) ______________________________Page 25 Figure 17: Left to Right, Top to Bottom. The gates in front of the monastery are used at the beginning of each season and key period of narrative. (5 minutes, 23 minutes, 55 minutes, 79 minutes, 98 minutes) ________________________________________________Page 26
INTRODUCTION This essay will specifically come from a perspective of deducing the meaning that arises through the sand metaphors in the film, Woman of the Dunes; this will serve the essays purpose in being an exercise to learn about the medium of film in greater depth. By analysing the metaphors in one film, this technique of analysis can be applied to uncover the meaning within other films. The other motivation for writing this essay is to contribute to small amount of published critical analysis of Woman of the Dunes. Described as “one of the most well-‐known films of the 1960s” (Altshuler, 1998), Woman of the Dunes was honoured with a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival In 1964 (BFI, 2006). Despite such recognition, particularly at an international level, a small number of critical analyses were published both in the country of the film’s origin, Japan and elsewhere abroad. (Wada-‐Marciano, 2007) The concepts in this essay run very closely with the study of Semiotics in Film, and by analysing the metaphors of the female protagonist, the subject of Women in Film may arise to the reader. The method of analysis in this essay could have derived from stances within the aforementioned fields; however, this essay intends to separate itself from these perspectives and to analyse sand metaphors of the film. The reader should refer to the Appendix 2 for further material, sources and filmographies on these areas of study. The methodology of this essay came from the first hand analysis of the film and gathering relevant images to be embedded in to the essay to illustrate ideas for the reader. The use of making mind maps and notes helped in the analysis and planning of the essay (See Appendix 1). An attending of a screening and talk on Woman of the Dunes: Seven Deadly Sins, Sloth with Nick Broomfield, Woman of the Dunes (2013) (Appendix 3) made up the combination of primary and secondary research of this essay. The original novel, The Woman in the Dunes (Abe, 2006) was read to understand the film’s themes in more depth. The articles, from Judith Shatnoff (1964) and David Mitchell (2006a, 2006b) provided the initial points of reference for the arguments and insightful analysis on the film.
Notes to the reader It will also be mentioned that, the title for the film in Japanese is 砂の女 . Due to the many transliterations of the preposition, の , you may see the film title being translated as “Woman “of”, “in”, or “from” the Dunes” in source material from the film. But this essay will adopt the transliteration of the preposition, “of” hereafter. This decision is not to influence the analysis, but is to provide consistency to the reader. 1
Additionally, Japanese names will be written in the Western convention (given name first, surname, last). If needed for further reference, see Appendix 4, for a list of the Japanese names mentioned in this essay written in Japanese convention.
___________________________________________________________________________ The author who is bilingual, provides the Japanese-‐English translations
CHAPTER ONE The emergence of Woman of the Dunes from The Japanese New Wave: A Brief Overview In order to evaluate the coded references and aims of the film, this chapter seeks to contextualise Woman of the Dunes in an emerging embrace of The New Wave in Japanese cinema. It will also contextualise the film’s narrative, associations of sand and critical analysis. In the 1960s, a film movement known as The New Wave would bring about the beginning of a period of unprecedented modernisation. Spearheaded by the film, “A Bout de Souffle” by Jean Luc Godard (1960), the movement would ripple across the world and “greatly extended the boundaries of film art” (Nowell-‐Smith, 1997. Page 463). The New Wave reached Japan. The Japanese film industry had moved away from a studio system and away from the “patient and precise” (Bell, 2012. Page 51) films of the great masters that preceded them, Yasujiro Ozu, Mizoguchi Kenji, and Akira Kurosawa and would allow for new younger film makers, such as, Nagisa Oshima, Susumu Hani, and Shohei Imamura (Nowell-‐Smith, 1997. Page 463, Page 714) to define a new era of Japanese Cinema. The director, Hiroshi Teshigahara and his works had emerged in this context. (BFI, 2006). Woman of the Dunes was adapted into a screenplay by Teshigahara’s close friend, Kobe Abe, an acclaimed and experimental novelist (Llorens, 2006), Abe also wrote the original novel published in 1962. (See Appendix 5) Toru Takemitsu, an Avant-‐garde composer would write the score for the film. It was the second film1 in which the trio, Teshigahara, Takemitsu and Abe had worked together on. It was a working relationship that would last another two more films2 and gave them the recognition of being “Japanese intellectuals of the late twentieth century” (Grilli, 2007), further defining the film’s context in The Japanese New Wave. 1 “
Pitfall” (1962) is the first film that Teshigahara, Abe and Takemitsu collaborated on. (Grilli, 2007) 2 “The Face of Another” (1966) and “Man Without A Map” (1968) would be the next two films the three artists collaborated on after, Woman of the Dunes (1964) (Grilli, 2007)
The narrative context of Woman of the Dunes (1964): This section seeks to summarise the content of the film to the reader in order to reveal the presence of the sand. Shot entirely in black and white film and with a running time of 146 minutes (approximately 2 hours, 43 minutes – a long running time, typical of New Wave films) the plot of Woman of the Dunes follows the protagonist, Jumpei Nikki1 a teacher who is also an entomologist in his spare time. He goes to the dunes to collect insect specimens on his short holiday from work. A villager of the dunes tells him that he has missed the last bus out of town and is invited to stay over in one of the houses in this village of ramshackle houses in the deep holes of the dunes (Figure 2). He accepts and stays with a woman, a widow1, in her house at the bottom of a sand pit. It is the next day when he expects to leave when he realises he has been duped into staying in that house with the woman as a helper to clear the sand; the inhabitants of this village in the sand have to continuously dig out the sand or the network of houses face collapse.
Figure 2: Village in the dunes. Viewed from the above. (10 minutes.) With this as the premise, the audience watches his story arcs unfold. The film documents his time and struggle in the dunes as he tries to escape numerous times and the complicated １
the characters can be seen in Figure 6 if needed for a visual reference.
relationship he has with the nameless woman, which begins as captor and captive and eventually turns sexual when he becomes resigned to his existence in the dunes. He also works on developing a method of extracting water from sand as his desire to escape diminishes. Material and cultural associations of sand Sand is a naturally occurring granular material, commonly comprised of calcium silicate and between 0.6mm to 2mm wide in diameter that forms as a result of the weathering of rock (Columbia Encyclopaedia, 2008). In addition to its physiological state, there are associations of sand that will be explored in this section, in a selection of spiritual, socio-‐cultural contexts; these associations will distinguish it from the associations of sand in the dunes of the film. Described at the United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) in 1977, desertification is:
“The intensification or extension of desert conditions … leading to reduced biological productivity with consequent reduction in plant biomass, in the land's carrying capacity for livestock, in crop yields and human welfare”. This geological process means that as a desert widens, it encroaches the natural vegetation and then renders the soil infertile. It is a process known to be happening in various locations on the Earth. Sand in this instance is a threat to humanity (The Encyclopedia of Ecology and Environmental Management, 1998). Sand, when treated, can be transformed into glass (See Figure 3) and these transformative properties add to its value as a metaphor; sand, has leant its physicality to contribute to the meaning of an art object.
Figure 3: Chihuly, D. (2001) Rotunda Chandelier. Found in the Grand Entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Continuing with the theme of transformation, “shifting sands” is an idiom that we attach to emphasize circumstances that change around in an unpredictable way, (Oxford University Press, 2011). “Shifting sands” used in a sentence below: “Whether something is accepted depends upon the shifting sands of taste.” (New Oxford American Dictionary, 2009)
Figure 4: A sand timer that measures the elapse of one minute. Sand when in the context of an hourglass timer (See Figure 4) communicates the meaning of the inexorable passing of time. However, in this context sand is controlled and contained.
Figure 5: One of Japan’s most revered rock gardens in Ryoan-‐ji Temple, Kyoto. (Holborn, 1978. Page 62) The element of sand in a Japanese Zen garden serves its function as a metaphorical representation of the sea. In this context, the sand performs a symbolic role. The sand is raked in lines around rocks (a symbol of mountains) to portray the rippling effect of water (Davidson, 1982. Page 31) (See Figure 5). The sand along with the other elements in a Zen garden contribute to an physical embodiment of, “Wabi-‐sabi” a concept with Buddhist
origins that accepts beauty in the "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” (Koren, 1994) Sand in this context is an example of how the physical sand, can be transformed to posses meaning. What sand is comprised of is relatively easy to ascertain according to scientific observation and research but, as demonstrated in the examples above, sand takes on a multitude of contextual meanings in spiritual, linguistic, socio-‐cultural and scientific contexts. Sand when observed in the context of Woman of the Dunes is framed at an elementary level but then begins to add more subtle additional meanings. (See Figure 6) when the man, says: “Sand is naturally dry.” (17 minutes). The Woman’s reply is easily overlooked, but is one that is heavy with connotation, “But it really makes things rot.” (17 minutes). It foreshadows the narrative later on in the film, which will be discussed in the following chapters. These themes are: sand as a metaphor for a wider audience, sand as a metaphor for the mental and physical prison and sand as a metaphor for the Woman.
Figure 6. Left to Right. Dialogue in which sand is framed at an elementary level but then more subtle meanings are implied. (17 minutes.)
The critical context of Woman of the Dunes (1964) This section will show a few examples of the critical context of Woman of the Dunes. By outlining the premises on which this essay has expanded upon, this provides validation for the arguments in this essay. It has been written that the sand in the physical landscape of Woman of the Dunes contains metaphor. Atkinson (2006. Page 52) writes in his review of the film as being a “confrontationally metaphoric movie”. This directly supports the argument outlined in this essay of the film using metaphor. David Mitchell (2006a), in his review on the original novel by Kobo Abe (1962), supports how there is metaphor present from the very beginning in saying the title alone, “flaunts its symbolic and literal point and counter-‐point.” From only the title, the idea that the literal, (the dunes and the woman) are symbols of meaning. Mitchell (2006a) adds, “plot and character are usually subservient to idea and symbol” This is another example of critical analysis describing elements in the film as representations of meaning. Despite the comments being about the novel, as Kobe Abe progressed to adapt the novel for screenplay, it can be a valuable insight in support of a premise for this essay. As summated by Judith Shatnoff (1964. Page 43) in her film review in Film Quarterly, she reduces the film’s plot of the film to, "Woman in the Dunes-‐ physically, how the trapped man gets out; spiritually, how the trapped man gets out". She describes the sand as being both a physical and spiritual prison. By attributing the same effect of trapping the main character to the physical and the mental, Shatnoff (1964) makes a metaphorical relationship between the two realms. It has been observed about the female protagonist, “The Woman is a multi-‐layered character” (Mitchell, 2006a): with this, the “Woman is both fearsomely tactile and abstract with an ideogram for a plot” (Atkinson, 2006. Page 52). Linking the word, “ideogram” with the Woman suggests, like the sand, she too carries a meaning that goes beyond her role as a main character. The above examples make up the critical context and have set up the next chapters in analysing what are the messages and meanings of the sand metaphors.
CHAPTER TWO Defining “metaphor” This section will clarify the definition of a metaphor for this essay. Taken from a dictionary definition, a metaphor is:
“A figure of speech/thing applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable, regarded as representative of something else, especially something abstract.” (New Oxford American Dictionary. 2009) Finch, (2001. Page. 167) in his analysis of Wittgenstein’s theories of meaning and understanding uses the term, “metaphoric connection” to explain the way a metaphor rearranges and unites concepts that we already know resulting in a truth becoming evident. Metaphor becomes useful in understanding and bridging all kinds of concepts and when used in film, becomes a method of communicating difficult, abstract or complex ideas that are not immediately tangible to an audience or as a narrative tool, to move the story forward. Now that a metaphor has been defined, this essay will use these concepts of metaphor to make evident the analysis of sand metaphor. Sand as a macro-‐metaphor for a wider audience Previously, the critical context of the film, explained the presence of metaphor in Woman of the Dunes. The following sections will look at the messages of the sand metaphors.
From the beginning of the film, sand is permeated into the narrative landscape to the point of being likened as a “third major character” (Mitchell, 2006). This presence of sand immediately begins in the first frame of the film in a close up focus on a grain of sand.
Figure 7: The very first frame of the film: a magnification of a single grain of sand. (1 Minute)
Figure 8: Left to Right. The following shots after the magnification of one grain of sand. (1 minute.) In the successive frames, (See Figure 8) the camera then cuts to shots of mounting grains of sand. This begins the first metaphor of sand symbolising the “macro metaphor”, a metaphor that can be applied on a large scale and to the “existence of many” (Eggert, 2012. Page 3). In a matter of seconds, the audience are made to know of this single grain of sand’s place amongst all the countless other grains of sand in the expanse of the dunes. If we relate this notion to the following quote, we support the definition of a macro metaphor: “…sharp visual planes make every grain stand out as an individual, but as individuals, they are meaningless. The opening’s microscopic scrutiny of one
grain of sand in a trillion, one pointless existence of many, expands to the larger view of the open desert and finds another individual of many, the schoolteacher, as anonymous as a single desert speck.” (Eggert, 2012. Page 3.) This quotes explains the microscopic way of looking at the grain of sand draws a parallel with the in depth way that the audience intensely (character) studies Jumpei Nikki and suggests that his existence can be scaled up to represent that of many. The theme of anonymity in the film further supports sand being a macro metaphor of human kind. The main character’s name is only revealed at the end of the film. The Woman and other characters remain anonymous throughout the film. Abe in the original novel, Woman in the Dunes (1962) “names his characters with apparent reluctance.” (Mitchell, 2006b. Page 6), this is because for Abe, this distracts from communicating what his characters represent, “… who tend to be delineated more by what they think or the ideas they symbolize, than by a fleshing out of personal histories.” (Mitchell, 2006b. Page 6.)
The example of sand being a macro “metaphor for the human predicament” Mitchell (2006a. Page 1) provides the first sand metaphor looked at in this essay. The conditions of the human predicament are looked at in the next chapter. Sand as a metaphor of a physical and mental prison The previous section argued for the existence of a macro metaphor. This section will detail the dialogues of the macro metaphor presented in the film. “Sand is the prison: literally, symbolically; and not just for the man. We too are down in this burning sandpit.” Mitchell (2006a: Page 3) observes. The visual metaphor signposting this narrative development of literal and symbolical entrapment is revealed on the protagonist’s realisation that he has been trapped in the dunes. We see the sand crashing in around him in Figure 9. As his hope is crushed and as Jumpei Nikki attempts an escape, the bars of the house that appear in the frame make up the physical prison by which he is trapped.
Figure 9: Left to Right. By use of parallel bars, it is visually represented that the sand is a prison for the protagonist. (39 minutes. 39 minutes. 39 minutes.) The concepts of what he is symbolically trapped by arise around six minutes into the film, when the main character, internally ponders the means by which people are identified: “The certificates we use to makes certain of one another: contracts, licenses, ID cards, permits, deeds, certifications, registrations, carry permits, union cards, testimonials, bills, IOUs, temporary permits, letters of consent, income statements, certificates of custody, even proof of pedigree. Is that all of them? Men and women are slaves to their fear of being cheated. In turn they dream up new certificates to prove their innocence. No one can say where it will end. They seem endless...” (6 minutes)
This excerpt of dialogue mentioned above, listing the tireless and “endless” requirements indicates questions of existential theme, the discovery of self, the fundamental questions of “Who am I?”, “Who are we?”. When Mitchell (2006a. Page 3) adds, “We, too, must spend a lifetime doing a job as meaningless (to the universe at large, if not to ourselves) as shovelling never-‐ending deposits of sand into buckets, getting nothing for our pains but the barest essentials.” He connects the main character’s struggle with acceptance of these existential dialogues to those of a wider audience and his analysis could be supported by the images in Figure 10. As the main character, Jumpei Nikki, is pinned down, catalogued and observed by bureaucracy, by society and by the audience, it symbolised through the metaphor of his hobby of entomology and the way that he taxidermies his insect collection.
Figure 10. Left to Right: an insect is pierced and kept as part of a collection. (19 minutes.)
Figure 11. Left to Right. The documentation of a caterpillar becomes a metaphor of the mental and physical entrapment narrative. (5 minutes) Further more, we see a caterpillar in the dunes being photographed by the main character in Figure 11. The way he documents and catalogues an insect in the dunes could further validate the metaphor of the mental and physical prison. The way he goes about insect collecting also connects and envelopes another layer of metaphor: the macro metaphor discussed in the previous section in the way it focuses in on one example and applies it to others. To summarise, the protagonist’s internal and laments on existential dialogues in the way which humans have to prove one’s identity preoccupies him and trap him mentally. It is recognised physically in metaphor in the way his physical surroundings literally imprison him (Figure 9). The mental and physical prison is further symbolised in the way he pins down other life that exists in the sand of dunes.
Sand metaphors of “the woman” Following from the previous chapter explaining the macro metaphor of sand in the dunes and how it symbolises a prison both physically and mentally, within the title of the film, the other thematic word as well as the “Dunes” is “Woman”. This sign posted the next logical metaphor to analyse in this section. Just as the woman imprisons the male protagonist, the sand also imprisons him. As the man becomes accustomed to life in the dunes, he also becomes accustomed to living with the woman; it is the presence of the woman the man is trapped in the bottom of the pit with as well as the 60-‐foot tall walls of sand. It is the woman he attempts to escape from as well as the pit. Parallels are drawn between the sand and the women in their perceived nature of unpredictability. The “…multitude of wonderful textures, constantly emphasizing the ever-‐ shifting sand, sometimes pouring down like a waterfall and at others resembling a solid cliff preventing the man’s escape.” (Gillet, 2006). This unpredictability in the way sand behaves, at times, pouring and at times, solid, is then related to the woman’s behaviour: “her obsessive attachment… her troubled humility and her sudden moods of fear and gaiety” making evident the similar and extreme shifts in her behaviour with the sand’s. (Monthly Film Bulletin, 1965) The unpredictability of sand is further heightened along with the association of sand being a danger to humans as a desert encroaches upon the physical space of humans (United Nations Conference, 1977). A similar kind of sinister situation can be felt when the widowed woman explains to Jumpei Nikki that she lost her husband and daughter after they were buried alive by a sand storm. Yet, despite knowing the dangers of using poor quality sand in buildings, she is not disturbed when she reveals to her trapped guest how the village council sell on the sand they dig up every day to local authorities for use in construction. Just as the dunes took away her husband and daughter, the Woman has indirectly become a threat to broader society by not objecting to the illegal activities of the village council. A similar notion to the dunes inflicting harsh living conditions on people is the notion of the sand being void. This is connected to the woman through metaphor when the woman
miscarries her unborn child towards the end of the film. When we see the woman bent over in pain and as the main characters await help, a sequence of an insect, trying to tread but lose footing in the sand is shown (See Figure 12). The insect struggling in the sand becomes a metaphor for the main characters and their unborn child (and for the metaphor for others, if we acknowledge the macro metaphor again), as they share their narrative of doing their best to hold on.
Figure 12: Left to Right. A sand metaphor of an insect struggling in the sand is used after the audience learns of the Woman’s struggle. (134 minutes. 134 minutes.) This sand metaphor makes a further connection to when we see the main character trying to escape from the dunes earlier on in the film (See Figure 13). Judith Shatnoff (1964. Page 43) writes “for while this detail graphically equates man with insect, it also predicts the confrontation of the man with himself, his meaningless life, through his confrontation with the elements, sand and water.” By relating the man with insect, it acknowledges the use of metaphor in the film and provides significant support to the sand metaphors of the woman.
Figure 13: The main character treads sand just as the insect treads sand later on in the film, giving validation a sand metaphor of narrative in the film. (34 minutes.)
Throughout the film, there are continual parallels suggested in the appearance of sand with the Woman, as can be observed in the selection of images in Figure 14. It reaches the point until sand and the woman becomes hard to separate from each other. This is supported by the comments from the Monthly Film Bulletin (1965) “…human skin suggests the cratered surface of the moon or becomes indistinguishable from the sand itself…’ and “textures conjured up out of sand, sea and human flesh, and in the pictorially striking and emotionally suggestive pattern of contrasts, and also of weirdly disturbing resemblances, it creates.”
Figure 14: Left to Right. It is suggested that the landscape of the dunes becomes visually difficult to separate with the body and skin of the woman. (10 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes.) Through the sand metaphors of the film, it is communicated to the audience that there are shared attributes in the unpredictability, the hostility and appearance of the woman and the sand of the dunes. Now that we have looked at a selection of perceived sand metaphors, we will consider the metaphors in another narrative context, in Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … And Spring.
CHAPTER THREE Woman of the Dunes in relation to Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … And Spring (Kim, 2003) This chapter seeks to analyse Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … And Spring as a way of understanding other metaphors in film. The film comes from a similar cultural sphere, from Korea, to not completely distract the attention of the reader. Like Woman of the Dunes, in the way that the state of the sand mirrored the states of narrative, characters and themes, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … And Spring also contains the use of metaphor. In this section, nature is observed as a metaphor in film again. In the context of this film, the transformative changes of seasons are used as a metaphorical tool to move the narrative forward, whilst incorporating cycles and repetitions.
Figure 15: Left to right. Floating monastery that the film centres around and the two main characters. (3 minutes, 3 minutes.) The narrative context of the film is about an old monk and the young boy he raises in a Buddhist monastery that floats in an isolated lake (See Figure 15). In Spring, the young boy learns the consequences of torturing animals. In Summer, now an adolescent, he first experiences love when he falls for a girl that stays in the monastery to recover from illness; he can’t bear it when she leaves so follows his heart and ends up leaving the monastery. In Autumn, he returns to the monastery as a 30 year old that has murdered his adulterous wife and is instructed by the elderly monk to repent by carving out a sutra in the floor of the monastery before being arrested by the police. The elderly monk that raised him then commits suicide by self-‐immolation. In Winter, the man, now middle aged, returns to the monastery that was vacant since the suicide of the monk. A woman comes to the monastery
and leaves her baby son with him but falls into a hole in the frozen over lake and dies. Time passes and it is Spring once again and the man has become an old monk. He raises the young orphan just as he initially was raised in the beginning of the film. As the film draws to a close, the young boy, just as his elder did at the same age, repeats the starting narrative by torturing animals.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … And Spring presents narrative in a cyclical way to embody Buddhist attitudes to the cycle of life, death and rebirth. In very distinct ways, the presence and progression of these themes are embedded and signposted in the film using certain metaphors. One metaphor can be seen in the direct way suffering is experienced Figure 16. As a young child, he tortured fish a by tying a rock to it. The young monk is punished for his actions by having a rock tied to him. Suffering is revisited in the same way when later on in the film, the adult monk, ties a rock to himself in his process of healing and repenting in Winter.
Figure 16: Left to Right. As a young boy, he tortures a fish and then has a rock strapped to him as punishment. The cycle of punishing repeats when as an adult, he ties a rock to himself. (11 minutes, 15 minutes, 92 minutes.) When there is a change in the physical landscape, so is there a change in emotional landscape of the protagonist. As can be seen in chronological order in Figure 17, the way the gates of the monastery open out is the strongest argument for metaphor in being able to symbolise and signpost the beginning of key periods of the character’s narrative in the coinciding seasons.
Figure 17: Left to Right, Top to Bottom. The gates in front of the monastery are used at the beginning of each season (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring) and key period of narrative. (5 minutes, 23 minutes, 55 minutes, 79 minutes, 98 minutes) The many themes in the film are related to the main character’s key episodes of life. Despite these narratives elapse over great periods and the specific years or time is never revealed, are able to tie into a linear narrative, with the change of the physical environment and the associations of those seasons. The metaphor of time passing and it moving in cycles is symbolised in the environment. The way Spring, (rebirth) is not a specific one, but the many Springs a human may live through. By analysing the perceived metaphors of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … And Spring, we have gained an insight into how metaphor is perceived in another film.
CONCLUSION This essay sought to explore the sand metaphors in the film, Woman of the Dunes. Written by Judith Shatnoff, (1964: Page 44), “It is this continual reference from the concrete to the abstract, from the idea to its visual representation, from the spiritual to the physical…” implies the symbiosis and extensive use of sand as a metaphor of concepts in the film; this essay looked at a selection of the sand metaphors. Through rearranging and unifying the concepts, associations and narratives of the sand, this became part of the process to result in a revealed understanding of the possible sand metaphors. This essay explored sand perhaps symbolising a macro metaphor, a mental and physical prison and the main character of the woman. In addition to analysing Woman of the Dunes, Spring, Summer, Summer, Autumn… And Spring, was analysed to understand how else another film might use metaphor to express concepts. As the intention of this essay sought to bring to surface what possible sand metaphors can be deduced from the film, it did not take a perspective in which to make judgements about these metaphors, partly because it simply cannot be contained within the limitations of this essay. One example lies in the speculation of the conditions of the macro metaphor, this idea was observed but it did not reflect on whether they are pessimistic or reflective conditions in a particular context. Also, in Chapter Two, it was analysed how the woman along with the sand seems to imprison the man. The feminist film theory perspective could take the subject of the main character’s relationship and discuss the implications of this in the film and sustain an in-‐depth exploration on this idea alone. With a reminder of the scarce research published about the film both on home soil in Japan and abroad (Wada-‐Marciano, 2007), the voices and contributions from different perspectives are further encouraged. Perhaps with the contributions of this essay, we may begin to see a progression in existing research to sit alongside the film, Woman of the Dunes.
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APPENDIX APPENDIX 1: Mind map of themes to be discussed in the essay.
APPENDIX 2: Further sources and reading. Film Studies: •
Film: An Odyssey. Mark Cousins. (2011)
Film Art: An Introduction. Bordwell And Thompson. (2010)
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Slavoj Žižek (2006)
The Criterion Collection. (www.criterion.com)
Semiotics in Film: •
Image, Music, Text. Roland Barthes. (1978)
The Cognitive Semiotics of Film. Warren Buckland. (2000)
The Film Spectator: From Sign to Mind. Warren Buckland. (1995)
Feminist Film Theory: •
Feminist Film Theory: A Reader. Sue Thornham. (1999)
The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Amelia Jones. (2010)
And the Mirror Cracked: Feminist Cinema and Film Theory. Anneke Smelik. (1998)
Camera Obscura. (Journal)
A Bout de Souffle. Jean Luc Godard (1960)
Tokyo Story. Yasujiro Ozu (1953)
I Was Born But… Yasujiro Ozu. (1932)
Knife in the Water. Roman Polanski. (1962)
The Naked Island. Kaneto Shindo (1960)
Boy. Nagisa Oshima (1969)
Seven Samurai. Akira Kurosawa. (1954)
The Face of Another. Hiroshi Tehigahara. (1966)
Man Without a Map. Teshigahara. (1968)
The Greatest Films Poll. Sight&Sound. (2012)
APPENDIX 3: Seven Deadly Sins, Sloth with Nick Broomfield. Woman of the Dunes. (Woman of the Dunes screening and talk attended as research.) Images: Lau (2013)
APPENDIX 4: Table of Japanese names mentioned in the essay in Japanese convention. English Convention
APPENDIX 5: The Woman in the Dunes. Kobo Abe (2006)
Published on Apr 29, 2014