Audition – Review
by Miguel Douglas on January 16, 2010
Seven years after the death of his wife, company executive Aoyama is invited to sit in on auditions for an actress. Leafing through the resumés in advance, his eye is caught by Yamazaki Asami, a striking young woman with ballet training. On the day of the audition, she’s the last person they see. Aoyama is hooked. He notes her number from her file, calls her and takes her to dinner. He hesitates to call again, worried that he’ll seem too eager. When he does, Asami knowingly lets the phone ring for some time before answering. She’s alone in her darkened room – alone, that is, apart from the writhing victim she has tied up in a sack on the floor…
An adaptation of the novel by Japanese author Ryo Murakami, Audition is a frightening exploration into the anxiety of newfound relationships, ending with the direst of results. With Audition, director Takashi Miike delivers perhaps one of his strongest films to date, all the while consciously aware of the source material and the initial impact it already has. It has been said that Murakami enjoyed the film so much, he personally chose Miike to adapt another established novel of his, Coin Locker Babies. With all the appreciation towards Murakami’s original novel, Audition is equally from the mind of Takashi Miike himself. While always one to never shy away from utilizing bizarre imagery in his films, Audition expertly provides an excellent story in which to develop around such imagery. There really is no loss of story for the sake of violent exploitation within Audition—which is an astonishing feat for Miike compared to his many other films. Each scene is meticulously shot to provide visual substance to the overall story, and Miike seemingly doesn’t want to waste any time on unwanted scenes within the film.
Another aspect to notice is the paradoxical format of the film itself. What’s striking about this film compared to Miike’s other films is its rather melodramatic first half. It is here we see the characters come into fruition, fully realizing who they are as individuals within their newfound relationship. We slowly begin to witness the relationship between Aoyama and Asami—from rather humble and innocent beginnings into a nightmarish conclusion. Perhaps this was necessary to do so, considering it deepens the impact of its finale in all it grotesque atmosphere. The slow and deliberate buildup to its climax is what’s truly haunting about Audition, mainly because we as viewers have no clue as to what to expect to come from the relationship between Aoyama and Asami. The deconstruction of its characters are what truly elevates the film during its second half, making sure to surprise the viewer with its reversal of conventional romantic elements. This is seemingly brilliant of Miike to do so, mainly because the juxtaposition is so jarring when viewing it that it completely rearranges the entire first half and brings into question what we just previously viewed.
The performances viewed in Audition is what really established the films somewhat humanistic approach in dealing with the characters relationships. The main character of Aoyama—played by Japanese rock star Ryo Ishibashi—delivers a great performance of a man who feels a sense of insecurity deriving from the loss his wife, and is slowly attempting to find love again. It’s this insecurity that really forms Aoyama as a character that we can relate too and sympathize with, but also acknowledge that he might be striving too much in his quest for love. We see Aoyama as an individual who will go to great lengths in order to find love, even witnessing moments of regret about going through with the rather shameful actions he took in order to find it. His fear towards actually finding a woman by himself is showcased, and it’s here where we begin to notice that he not only wants to remedy this—although mostly from suggestion from family and peers—but also will take extreme measures to do so.
As for Asami—played by model Eihi Shiina—she perfectly encapsulates the cute and submissive exterior that is expressed within stereotypical views of women. She is everything that Aoyama could hope to find in a women; one could say the perfect woman for Aoyama. Perhaps too perfect is a better description, and Miike plays off this notion throughout the film. We view Asami as an individual with a trouble and rather traumatic past, also suffering with insecurity. The difference with her though is that she’s been dealing with her hardships for quite a long time, unknowing to Aoyama. But it’s this deviation of outward emotions from Asami that really provides the shocker here; the subversion of the perfect female stereotype is viewed and henceforth unleashed onto the viewers.
Overall, Audition is a surprisingly effective film. Miike has always been one to never shy away from showing the extremities within his films, and while this is still true within the confines of Audition, he’s careful to showcase an articulate story as well. The plot—while seemingly basic at first—soon develops into a horrific spiral that consumes the viewership as we slowly unravel for ourselves what is occurring. With believable acting, an enticing plot and a finale that is sure to shock many, Audition slowly envelopes the viewer into forming their own mental readings regarding what the film actually means, then—as Miike himself has put it—psychologically betrays the viewers every expectation. That alone is worth viewing Audition as one of the most prominent Japanese horror films during the late nineties.