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Suna No Onna

February 14, 2005

(Woman in the Dunes)

Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japan 1964. According to a roman of Kobo Abe.

Erotic without too much skin, Teshigahara shows you that the things left unsaid (or unseen) are at least as important as the visible ones. It’s the absence that matters.

Man, “Schep je zand om te leven of leef je om zand te scheppen?” (“Do you scoop sand to live or do you live to scoop sand?”)

Once upon a time there was a house in the dunes, a small small house. In the little wooden house lived little lady. Lady lived alone. One day came man to the village in the dunes, man from the great city. Man came to collect some insects, “Insects in the dunes are my speciality.” Man was seen by the villagers in the dunes. The people offered man a place to sleep. Down man went into the sand-pit. In the sand-pit lived little lady. Lady had to scoop sand every night, whole night long. Man was trapped, could not escape from the sand-pit, from the small small house, from the dunes, from the sand, from lady. Man was angry,”Why don’t you leave?”

Lady, “Maar het is mijn huis.” (“But this is my home”)

Sand. Personally I don’t like it. I never like the idea of a desert, where you have sand and more sand. Yet, it has a certain charm for people who would like to live in solitude, like the desert fathers and the ascetics, to mention a few of them. I never think of sand as attractive, until I watch Suna No Onna. Until I see the surrealistic beauty of sand. Sand, cruel yet weirdly captivating. Sand, a symbol of our very existence.

Lady, “Zonder de zand zou niemand zich om me bekommeren.” (“Without the sand nobody would bother with me”)

My question is, “Why not?!?” Is it the sand or is it the fact that women are nothing in Japanese society? Without man you are nothing, Lady. Maybe the statement should be modified,”Without a man nobody would bother with me.” A man, any man.

Man, “Alsof je een huis bouwt op water.” (“Just like building a house on water”)

Who is so stupid to build a house on water? Well, we are, I guess. Every single one of us. Just like man and lady, we have to scoop our sand every single day.

Lady, “Je wilt toch ook een huis?” (“You also want to have a house, right?”)

Even if it means that we have to scoop sand our whole life?

Man, “Morgen misschien. Als je maar hoop hebt dat het ooit anders wordt.” (“Tomorrow maybe. As long as you have hope that it’ll be different someday.”)

That one thing called hope keeps you breathing, even if you know that you are building a house on water. Hope is able to keep you scooping your sand everyday.

Lady, “Bang dat ik straks weer alleen wakker wordt.” (“Afraid that I’ll wake up alone again soon”)

Aren’t we always? Your sand is your only company.

“We zijn toch varkens!” (“We are after all pigs!”)

Aha, this is something new! Pigs who want to have a house, even if it means that pigs have to scoop sand everyday. Pigs who want to build a house, even if a boat would serve them better. Pigs who cherish hope that tomorrow would be different. Pigs who are afraid to wake up lonely. Pigs who are, well… pigs after all.

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