Plot – A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be – Audition.
Director – Takashi Miike
Released – 1999
When thinking about Audition, most only remember the shocking final fifteen minutes, while forgetting about the proceeding 95 minutes leading up to it? A fault I lay squarely at the feet of director Miike. When you set out to disturb your audience as much does in this film, you can’t blame the viewer for forgetting about all the nuanced moments that aren’t nearly as unsettling, which is a shame because Audition is far more than just another body horror movie made to satisfy fans of video nasties or torture porn.
In reality, it’s delving into the human mind brings it closer to the psychological dramas of David Lynch or Yorgos Lanthimos. Here the line between fantasy and reality gets blurred, diluting the film’s violent last act, strongly suggesting that the brutality shown might just be one of the protagonist’s nightmares. Though Miike leaves this open to discussion.
Other aspects that are left for interpretation in Audition is the films’ deeper meaning. Is it a critique of female gender roles in Japanese society? Is it an exploration into Aoyama’s (Shiina) guilt at wishing to replace his dead wife? Is the film about how finding love can feel like a series of passing and failed auditions? You can make a case for its being about all or none of these things and many more, making this an infinitely re-watchable movie and one of its biggest assets.
Onto the violence. This isn’t incredibly graphic or gory body horror that the hype would lead you to believe, though I believe Miike still pushed the envelope a little too far, taking away from all his hard work creating an interesting exploration into the human psyche and thus diluting the emotional impact of the film.
Those who go into Audition expecting lashing of gore are likely to be disappointed. This isn’t the next Saw or Hostel, but instead, Shutter Island or Identity with increased brutality, a dose of new-age Japanese horror sensibilities and beautiful cinematography.
If you liked: The Grudge, Pulse, Dark Water