Hiroshi Teshigahara directs Eiji Okada, Kyoko Kishida and Hiroko Ito in this Japanese arthouse drama where a holidaying school teacher finds himself trapped in a desert pit with a ready-made wife and ever encroaching avalanches of sand to deal with.
Is it the worst prison in the world? Nothing to do but fuck and dig sand? Obvious parallels to Kafka and the myth of Sisyphus and also clearly influencing future works as diverse as Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance and The Truman Show. There’s definitely an element of the leering ‘Pink Film’ here too. One stunningly horrific sequence sees our protagonist offered a chance at freedom and all he has to do is abandon his last trace of humanity, obliterate the relationship he has built with his inmate, in full view of everyone else who still knows he exists. It is a nasty, disturbing, lingering set piece of psychological horror. Eija Okada excels as an amateur entomologist, his hobby the perfect metaphor for the brutal vivarium he himself is tricked into entering. He slowly sheds his manners and civilisation, becoming as brute and uncaring as a pinned insect. An even more fascinating performance is Kyoko Kishida’s enigmatic widow. Sexually needy, she appears to be a coy domestic honeytrap at first, but just as imprisoned as him, maybe only a bit further along in mindset and understanding of her unofficial sentence. Are we in hell? Or a cynical reduction of the institution of marriage? However you interpret this clearly potent and daring work it has lost little of its power to shock over the many decades since its release. A bleak strangeness buries you.
Perfect Double Bill: In The Realm Of The Senses (1976)
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