Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan
Adaptation of the novel by Ryu Murakami
Concept: 8 A widower takes an offer from a friend to hold a fake audition to a movie to find his ideal wife. He is fascinated by his choice, a young woman who’s not who she seems.
Films with similar characteristics: Misery, Vertigo, Sybil, Black Swan, Seven.
Audition’s trademark feel: Art horror that crosses lines. It’s like watching a David Lynch film on acid. It’s traumatic and shocking. Bland, dull, boring everyday life meets infatuation… …and evil. A made for TV movie mixed with a Sadistic nightmare. Sick, unsettling, creepy, freakish, inconceivably brutal, hypnotic, twisted, and depressing. Elegantly captivating yet overtly disgusting. Very heavy handed. An unforgiving spider web. The most prominent strength is the hovering mood of Audition. It takes it’s time but without exaggeration, it will suck you in unlike anything I’ve seen.
Acting: 9 The main actors manage to juggle romantic moments without getting too sappy. This is all also done with a very subtly eerie and unsettling exchange. It’s almost unnoticeable at times. Eihi Shiina steals the show as her role absolutely demands her to do. The whole script depended on it.
Sets: 7 The backdrop is suppose to feel like every day life so ambitious sets aren’t called for. Still, all locations are very memorable.
Cinematography: 10 Takashi Miike mentions in the DVD commentary that Hideo Yamamoto once had a family member die, and that he personally has become very afraid of death as a result. The director says he chose him because it shows in his work. It really does.
Screenplay: 9 Intelligently paced it gives you just enough to draw you in. However, the events deliberately keep you without excitement to set you up for a drastic change in tone. The story suddenly self destructs. What little psychological explanations it gives feeds the imagination.
Dialog: 7 The dialog isn’t fantastically impressive, but again this film is shooting for a real life feel. Ordinary conversations typically don’t get fanciful.
Musical Score: 7 It serves it’s purpose. The few classical contributions are lovely. More importantly the composer knew when to not do anything at all. There is no soundtrack or score to everyday life.
Tartan Asian Extreme Cinema: Two of these brand of films are among my top five favorite movies. So naturally I’ve searched through 15-20 others and they all paled in comparison. Unlike the other genre limiting horror films Audition has a significant commentary on society and an actual meaning to the film besides just really scaring you.
Controversy: Some have oddly deemed this as a feminist film. I’d say it’s just a movie that hates being categorized and that gender roles aren’t exclusive. Takashi Miike believes that this film is not a horror movie. There are no ghosts or supernatural occurrences. However, one man had been rushed from the theater to the hospital in the middle of watching it. Some audiences became outraged by it and shouted at the director to his face upon seeing him. Horror enthusiast Rob Zombie himself admitted that even he was sincerely freaked out by this film, and that never happens with him. This movie is unrated, and for 1999, it pushed the envelope much further than previous films. There have been grosser displays in cinema but never with this kind of real life feel.
Targeted audience: It’s microscopically small. It’s for people who had once lived and breathed depression and aren’t hesitant to understand it no matter how disturbing. It’s for those who despise PG-13 romantic comedies. I don’t think horror fans who love blood and gore through any means are it’s real audience. It’s a deliberately slow paced film. You’ll unquestionably need a firm stomach. If you’re a person who wants to know the truth about the world no matter how unbearable, this may be for you.
My fascination with this film: I first saw Sybil when I was about 14 years old. This film feels very similar to it and expresses itself much further. When a film exposes the truth about a particular person’s hellish upbringing, I don’t think you can question the need for such a task. With Audition, evil becomes harder to identify and so does insanity. It attempts to understand both. Yes, how people acquire mental illnesses can only be explained by a disconcerting background.
I personally believe the world would be a much healthier place if everyone were able to reveal their most hideous secrets sincerely through film and literature. Even though Audition is a work of fiction, it hits home in a very true to life way. The viewer will be forced to make sense of it or they will discard it in disgust (which many do unfortunately). I’ve noticed that Audition’s fans are often very sensitive people which is contrary to what you might expect. My love for this film did not develop after I initially watched it. It built up over the years. There is no one movie like it.
After watching Audition: Make absolutely certain you check out these really excellent reviewers of the film. There are spoilers. One’s a historical obsessive of Japan, the other a legendary writer on film.