Every so often, a movie comes along that makes you wonder about the mental health of the director. Takashi Miike has built his career on movies like this. Audition (1999) is a perfect example of the sort of movie that you have to watch through your fingers, with an air discomfort bag nearby. Don't believe us? Read on...Based on the novel by Ryū Murakami, the story involves a lonely widower named Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), still mourning the death of his wife, who is encouraged by his friend Yoshikawa and his 17-year-old son Shigehiko to begin dating again. They set up a mock audition, with the goal that he would marry the most beautiful and charming of the women. After the first round of interviews, he finds himself falling in love with a beautiful, soft-spoken former ballerina, Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), who was forced to quit dancing after an injury. He calls her, and shortly thereafter everything starts going horribly wrong.kiiiiri kiri kiri kiri...
Bilingual Bonus: Although "kiri kiri" is translated as "deeper, deeper" in the English subtitles and elsewhere as "cut cut", it is actually the Japanese onomatopeia for describing sharp pain. Which Aoyama is in a lot of by that point.
A re-dub of the German release translates it to "killekille", which is not only as phonetically close as possible to the Japanese original, but, moreover, literally translates as "tickle tickle" and as such is probably the most appropriate translation bar none, given Asami's playful demeanour during the whole scene.
Black and Grey Morality: The only character who isn't sleazy, psychotic, or kind of an asshole is Shigehiko. So far as we know.
Completely Missing the Point: Asami's major beef with Aoyama is that he lied to her. Not about the fake audition, not about making a bunch of women believe they were going to be movie stars, not about playing on the disappointment of the rejects to get himself a wife. She's mad because, as far as she could tell, he lied about loving only her, leading to some Disproportionate Retribution (see below).
Dark and Troubled Past: She was a trained ballet dancer... with a psychotic stepfather that would physically and sexually abuse her. No wonder she's a few degrees off-plumb.
Dirty Old Man: Asami's stepfather, who sexually abused her when she was a child.
This isn't close to what she's done in the past. As Aoyama is trying to find clues about Asami's background, he finds a music studio she'd mentioned, whose owner had been missing for a year. A helpful bystander informs Aoyama that said owner had a girlfriend on the side while he was seeing Asami... said girlfriend was found cut to pieces in the room Aoyama was about to investigate. To make matters worse, the police also found three spare fingers, an extra ear, and a rogue tongue in the mess. Then we get a good look at Bag Man...
The Dog Bites Back: Possibly Asami killing her stepfather. Too bad the psychological damage was already done.
Establishing Character Moment: The scene when Asami gets the callback... and we see her in a completely empty apartment, sitting next to the only other things there but her: the ringing phone, and a lumpy burlap sack containing her previous boyfriend, who is mutilated but still horribly alive. And she's staring at the phone...
Eye Scream: It involves acupuncture needles. That is all.
Fantastic Drug: The paralyzing agent Asami uses on Aoyama is fictional. Word of God is that they made it up because the film would have been difficult to finish otherwise.
Fauxshadow: Think about it. An ethereally beautiful Woman in White catches the attention of the protagonist, but it turns out that none of the references she gave exist and she mysteriously disappears one day? Doesn't that sound a lot like the setup for a Boy Meets Ghoul story / "she was a ghost all along" reveal (more than one reviewer has pointed this out)? Of course, everyone knows that's not what happens...
Freudian Excuse: Asami was physically and sexually abused as a child until she took her stepfather's head off with piano wire. So naturally her ideas of what constitutes a loving relationship are skewed.
Gainax Ending: So what's up with the sudden vision of Aoyama happily together with Asami in bed? Is it just a hallucination or failed dream Aoyama is having? Or something more? And is Asami turning out to be Not Quite Dead the real deal, or just Aoyama's delusion?
It's quite likely that he simply "checked out" from the pain.
Genre Shift: The film starts out as a sweet romantic comedy, then descends into horror. Additionally, while the first half of the film is fairly natural and bland in colour, the second half of the film has a lot of red lighting in several scenes (when Aoyama visits the music studio, the Stone Fish restaurant, and during the torture scene).
Girl with Psycho Weapon: The fact that the needles and piano wire are so delicate and she's so beautiful makes it infinitely worse.
Gory Discretion Shot: Both played straight (Asami as a child being burned, Asami's stepfather being decapitated with piano wire) and averted (the torture scene).
It's also played straight during the aforementioned torture scene in some places - the camera focuses on Asami's face rather than the needles puncturing Aoyama's face (although the aftermath is shown), and the camera quickly cuts away before she injects his tongue. However, during the severing of Aoyama's foot it initially looks like it's going to be an aversion, as the camera cuts away as Asami begins... until the camera focuses on the grisly damage part way through.
Horrible Judge of Character: Averted, as Asami genuinely does seem like a nice, quiet young woman to begin with, although Yoshikawa does have misgivings about her right from the get-go. Aoyama doesn't listen to him.
Kick the Dog: Just to really hammer home how psychotic Asami is, she kills Aoyama's beloved pet dog.
Love at First Sight: Aoyama is immediately attracted to Asami just from seeing her photo and reading her essay.
Mind Screw: Hi. I'm the ending sequence. I dare you to figure out what the hell is happening.
Missing Mom: Shigehiko's mother dies of an unspecified illness at the start of the film.
Neck Snap: While pursuing Shigehiko, Asami is pushed down the stairs, breaking her neck.
Not Quite Dead: Well, perhaps. Asami, after having her neck snapped, suddenly looks at Aoyama and begins talking to him, although it isn't made clear if she really is still alive or if he's just hallucinating.
Off with His Head!: Asami takes off her stepfather's head with razor wire after years and years of abuse.
Pay Evil unto Evil: Debatable. Depends on how repulsive you find an older man tricking young, ambitious, smart, gorgeous women who just want a shot at living their dream into lining up like cattle for the intent of taking emotional advantage of one of the distraught losers to get himself a wife.
Additionally, how Asami deals with her psychotic stepfather later...
Playing with Syringes: Asami injects Aoyama under the tongue with a paralyzing agent before she starts to play.
Trailers Always Spoil: One of the trailers opens with Asami's Establishing Character Moment and later shows brief clips of the torture scene. The DVD covers also completely spoil the movie, usually by showing Asami wearing her torture garb and wielding a syringe.
Yamato Nadeshiko: Deconstructed. At first, Aoyama is drawn to Asami because of her soft-spoken nature as well as her subtle, hidden strength. However, it is revealed that she was severely abused as a child and as a result has hidden mental problems, meaning that she is actually one of two things:
Yandere: She wanted him to love only her and snapped out when she discovered this wasn't the case. Kind of makes Alex Forrest look like Rainbow Brite. Case in point: the guy in the bag, who she mutilated in order to make him totally dependent on her.
Cute and Psycho: It's debatable how motivated by love she was, in that she didn't sound that convinced of the delusion-based excuses she shuffled through. She may have been less interested in him romantically than in using him as a punching bag.