Written by Robert O’ Doherty
”Everyone is lonely in Japan” – it’s a quote from Audition that sums up this complex film for me. When Shigeharu Aoyama’s (Ryo Ishibashi) wife dies, he and his son, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) must rely on each other as we go from the death in the family, to a scene 7 years later where father and son are enjoying some bonding time while fishing. The relationship between the two seems healthy as they talk about fish, ovaries and other mild-mannered topics at the dinner table. It’s not till Shigehiko mentions to his father about seeking a new woman in his life, that Shigeharu begins to think dispiritedly about his current status. The shots are set up very nicely to give you a sense of isolation through moving environments. The cinematography has a silent groove to it that falls into conjunction with Shigeharu’s slow movement towards a new love.
The plan to find his new lover is hatched when his good buddy, Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), decides to hold auditions for a fake crummy script. The idea is for Shigeharu to review all the girls and help with the auditions – through them, he can find his perfect match. While I do sympathize with Shigeharu, he does have his sleazy moments like this – looking for someone who possesses qualities that are degrading in some ways. The audition montage is a hoot in itself and both Jun and Ryo bounce off each other so well.
Shigeharu is successful in finding the woman he desires – Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) – and instantly becomes infatuated by her when he discovers she lost something in the past too. Asami appears to be innocent and pure, sporting white clothing for most scenes. What seems to be an awkward, but allocated relationship, soon turns ugly as Asami’s past is unfolded. There’s a drastic change in tone, camera movement and lighting. The camera moves more with the darker tone that’s lit like a mad-house.
The camera doesn’t move too much at the start, letting the actors talent draw you in; like a play – focusing on character development. While I wouldn’t call Audition a flat our horror, it does have its moments of it, and because you know and feel something for the characters that are presented to us on-screen, the horror is much more effective. That’s the problem with the horror genre, it throws stereotypical characters at us, and when they are murdered, we don’t give a rats-ass. Now let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? The torture scene. When Asami reveals what a sick bitch she is, she calmly begins to stick acupuncture needles deep into the flesh of her former lover and happily cuts his foot off.
Audition will leave you with a big question mark over your head. The film can be interpreted in many ways and it may frustrate you as a viewer who went from watching a simple slow-paced story to a bizarre bag of tricks from writer Daisuke Tengan and director Takashi Miike. I have my own interpretation that still needs thinking. I may need to watch Audition again just to reevaluate my theory. But there is a strong theme of fear and needs from a relationship that’s displayed in a manic way. Again the loneliness and isolation falls into those themes. Even the production design sometimes plays up the idea of being alone or feeling dead in Japan
Overall, I did enjoy Audition, but the change in pace was a bit bothersome, even to the point where it didn’t feel like the same movie I began to watch. But, Audition will leave you with a lot to think about, so, first time around, focus and take in as much as you can, or you might be in for second viewing.