Sunday, November 14, 2010

AUDITION (1999) Movie Review


Review by Tom Parnell

What draws us to horror movies? Is it the feeling of being scared while in a safe and comfortable environment? Is it the heart-racing shock of imagining what could be lurking in the shadows? Or is it a kind of perverse schadenfreude as innocent victims suffer a fate worse than death on the screen in front of us?

These may seem like quite weighty questions for a mere film review, but anybody intending to watch Japanese director Takashi Miike’s AUDITION should be prepared to find themselves pondering them.

Prolific filmmaker Miike has explored cartoonish violence in films such as ICHI THE KILLER and the DEAD OR ALIVE series, but AUDITIO is all too real, which is where perhaps the horror is created. Everything that happens in AUDITI could happen; the main character is familiar and believable, his motivation understandable and his surroundings homely and comfortable. If Miike had chosen to add a ‘based on true events’ caption at the beginning I doubt few viewers would have questioned it.

The film begins with widower Shigeharu Aoyama being encouraged by his teenage son to find love again. Shigeharu’s friend, film producer Yoshikawa, suggests they hold a fake audition for an actress to play Shigeharu’s wife in a fictional film, and from there he can woo the applicant of his choosing.

Despite opening with the death of Shigeharu’s wife the beginning of the film has quite a positive feel and could easily have gone on to be a story of unconventional romance and clichéd ‘learning to love again’. Miike is not one for clichés and this is far from where the story is headed.

What does happen is that into this seemingly innocent story an unnerving undertone is introduced, in such a subtle manner that at first the viewer would be hard pressed to say exactly what it is that is making them uncomfortable. Miike’s style is reminiscent of David Lynch’s as he slowly builds tension and makes the mundane seem somehow surreal. Our expectations are continually confounded and the sinister atmosphere increases, until the film’s dramatic, difficult and disturbing crescendo.

It is difficult to review this film entirely without giving something away, although I defy anybody to predict the ending accurately. What I will say is that AUDITION ends with one of the most difficult movie scenes I have ever had to watch and I’m still not sure how I should feel about it. What I would say is that I don't believe it is entirely gratuitous.

AUDITION is a good film and I would definitely recommend it, it is engrossing, stylish and subverts the viewer’s expectations. What I would be uncomfortable in saying is that I enjoyed it all. Nothing is more tempting than being told something may be too extreme for you to see, but if you do watch AUDITION be aware that you may very well end up seeing more than you wanted to.


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