I just finished watching a Japanese horror film called 'Audition'. It was directed by Takashi Miike, who is also behind two of my favourite Japanese films, 'Ichi the Killer' and 'Imprint'.
I was nervous about watching this because of the reviews that I read online. It seems that when it first hit the select theaters and festivals, it had a great deal of walk-outs. The gore and torture that was portrayed was rumored to be legendary, and knowing this fact I was a little anxious about watching it alone on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
The story begins with the death of our protagonist's wife. Leaping ahead seven years we find that he is still single, but at the bequest of his son he decides that he may be ready for romance once again. He and his friend, both are assumed to be producers of some kind, set up 'auditions' for a 'film'. In reality, the two use the auditions as a rouse to have a parade of women through which our protagonist can find himself a suitable mate.
Aoyama immediately falls in love with the young Asami, and begins to woo her as soon as her interview is over. Both are shy around the other, as a result of his limited romantic life and her mysteriously solitary past. When we are allowed into Asami's apartment, we find sparse seating as she herself sits on the ground, staring at her phone. There is also a large sack lying on the floor, and when it groans one can't help but think that something human is in there. When Aoyama takes her on a weekend getaway to propose, he becomes aware of a great deal of suffering in her past that has left her frightened to give her heart to anyone who refuses to love only her. When Aoyama awakens the next morning to find her missing, he begins to search for her, uncovering the gruesome mysteries of her life. This of course includes the murder of a woman and the disappearance of a record producer. Aoyama returns home only to be drugged and tortured by the deranged Asami, as a result of her inability to believe that he could love only her. She insists that words are not real, and to feel, Aoyama must feel only pain. Aoyama's son returns home and puts an end to the torture, leaving Asami on the floor with a broken neck.
I do understand the ways that this film is frightening. I understand the deranged quality of young Asami, and the gruesome torture that ensues for a long period of time. At the same time, I think that a lot of this film is destroyed by my desensitization to gore. This film therefore becomes more of a mental trauma, as a result of the build up and subtle games that it plays with the audience. I think that because of this, the film never really receives the credit that is due to it. A film critic may find it too violent, while a horror buff would find it too slow. I was lucky, being both a film fan and a gore fan, so I would recommend this to anyone who felt the same.
The most important things to know about this film are as follows:
-It is a slow start. Truthfully, I think that it begins as most romantic comedies might, except Aoyama just happens to fall for the wrong kind of girl.
-There is a lot left to the imagination, as well as a lot skewed by Aoyama's imagination/dreams. When he is knocked out, we travel through Asami's life and it is difficult to tell what is reality and what is drug induced nightmare.
-I accept that the gore present may be difficult for some people to handle. For myself, I have seen far worse, so I was not affected at all by the scenes, but this is not to say that it may not destabilize some audiences.
-I think this is the most important piece of advice for not only this film, but all films. Read the reviews and get an idea, but by no means let that shape your viewing of the material. I think that if I had allowed the movie to simply unravel itself instead of searching for an accurate explanation, I would have enjoyed it even more than I did. I think that with a film of this caliber it is important to let it shock you.