Woman in the Dunes (Teshigahara, 1964)

Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964)

Every shot claustrophobic, Teshigahara has created perhaps the most suffocating horror movie I’ve seen. Layer upon layer of close quarters (the protagonist is imprisoned in a deep sand pit with small dark house living at the bottom) accompanied by extreme closeups of faces, skin, and falling sand, as well as a few shots outside the pit at nighttime in pitch darkness – all shot in a tight 4:3 aspect ratio – never lets the viewer feel any sense of open space. Every single shot works as a visual prison. And the film becomes even more impressive in its creepy psychological examination; the protagonist and the woman living in this prison of a house as game pieces for a group of disturbed villagers’ source of delight. It’s a haunting setup matched equally in unsettling nature by its fascinating ending. (I’m keeping this one spoiler-free but you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.) The film is never scary or even graphic, but the ideas and the way they are presented visually through the lighting and editing make it a truly horrific horror film.  8.75/10

woman in the dunes

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