Recent widower Shigeharu Aoyama is advised by his son to find a new wife, so he seeks the advice of a colleague having been out of the dating scene for many years. They take advantage of their position in a film company by staging an audition to find the perfect woman. Interviewing a series of women, Shigeharu becomes enchanted by Asami, a quiet, 24-year-old woman, who is immediately responsive to his charms. But soon things take a very dark and twisted turn as we find that Asami isn't what she seems to be...
A masterpiece of Japanese horror
- Audition review by Shatner's Bassoon
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Director Takashi Miike could not have structured this film better. Early scenes are quite light hearted, gentle, and include some quirky comical bits but as the film progresses the tone of the film gradually moves from light to dark. The tone shift is so naturally implemented that it never feels sudden or out of place, and by the time all hell breaks loose, the film really has you in its grip, won't let go, sucking you into the truly disturbing and horrific final scenes. Audition is easily Takashi Miike's best and most unsettling film to date, and for the most part, he does it without all the shock and gore he's normally associated with. Enough praise cannot be heaped upon this film, one of the best Japanese horrors ever made.
Seven years after the death of his wife, Shigeharu Aoyama (an excellent performance from Ryo Ishibashi) is urged by his son Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) to start dating other women. After the tragedy of his wife’s death, the film then becomes almost a light comedy, as the two of them (and the dog, Gangu!) attempt to match-make the clearly floundering Shigeharu. After seeing a parade of women as part of an ‘audition’ to be his next wife, the stunning, demure (and a very young looking 24 years of age) Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), dressed entirely in white, utterly beguiles him, and it seems as if the feeling is mutual.
Shigeharu is a well-meaning, otherwise contented man with a genuinely warm-hearted family. Asami was a ballet dancer but damaged her hip, and yet otherwise seems very enigmatic; she lives alone in a flat with a phone and a curiously omnipresent sack … that moves. Shigeharu’s investigations lead to a morass of deepening mystery regarding all who knew Asami – at the dance studio she claimed to frequent is a man with prosthetic feet, the owner of a bar where she used to work was murdered (his recovered body was recovered alongside extra fingers, tongue and an ear, which fuels Shigeharu’s nightmares).
The contrast between the increasingly bizarre snapshots of Asami’s life and the pleasant mundanity that is Shigeharu’s life give a deliberately disjointed sense to the film: truly, we do not know where (if anywhere) the narrative is going, and what is going to happen next. Which is probably just as well.
Asami’s sack contains a dog-like creature missing the body parts found by the police following the death of the bar owner; she sits alone and silent awaiting his every phone call. Perverse and abusive flashbacks that may be dreams show the girl tortured and abused. When one day he doesn’t call, her anger takes on excruciating levels.
In a finale that will stick in the mind of anyone who has seen ‘Audition’, Shigeharu is drugged and falls to the floor of his living room, unable to move. Gangu is killed, and the warmth of the Aoyama family home is corrupted as Asami emerges, dressed in long leather gloves and apron, carrying an array of needles and torture implements. Very slowly and methodically, she inserts needles into his eyes and begins to cut off one foot, before moving onto the other. The delicacy and deliberation with which she carries out these paralysing punishments are filmed in meticulous detail and the results are painful even to watch. He is paying the price for not devoting himself entirely to her, as others have done in the past (‘All words are lies, pain doesn’t lie’).
The film has been heralded for inciting the ‘torture porn’ style of projects like ‘Saw (2004)’ and ‘Hostel (2005)’, and yet remains more effective than any of them for not giving any clue or indication as the depths of the depravity unleashed toward the close. Truly shocking, hauntingly beautiful and not easily forgotten.