Both are outstanding, and exhibit one of those rare instances where a given piece of media is not superior over the other (book > film); instead, each piece is imbued with the meanings and the underlying notions of the work, while exemplifying the strengths of the form it inhabits (Abe wrote both novel and screenplay, with longtime collaborator Hiroshi Teshigahara at the helm of the picture).
Both novel and film are an exercise in modern existentialism, to be sure, but not the contrived “triumphs” of a Sartre protagonist (smug motherfuckers they be – “The tree – C’est Existence!”). This smacks of the kind of abject terror of Camus, the railing against the fates amidst a kind of unceasing helplessness. The good shit.
At times, both can drag on the senses (the book more than the film, understandably – you’ll start to think in sand, rolling down the sides of your temples), but definitely worth a gander. Particularly if you enjoy the silent shrieks that strike the chord of night, hollow against the meaningless construct of the self.
BONUS: The Myth of Sisyphus essay by Albert Camus, for all my nyerds. One has to work a Sisyphean reference when discussing Woman in the Dunes, one way or another!