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Film / Audition

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Just a sweet candidate for our hero's love story, nothing more.note 

Audition is a 1999 Japanese film directed by Takashi Miike. In the years since its release, it's gained equal levels of infamy and respect and had a significant influence on later generations of filmmakers, with its ranks of fans including Eli Roth, John Landis and Rob Zombie — which may give some insight to what kind of film this is.

Based on the novel by Ryu Murakami, the story revolves around 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 where a lineup of women are interviewed to see if they're most fit for the "part" of Shigeharu's new wife, 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 Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), a beautiful, soft-spoken former ballerina who was forced to quit dancing after an injury.

He calls her...and shortly thereafter, his life takes a strange turn.

One more thing about the film's story — it follows a unique path into revealing its true nature, and viewers will benefit the most going in knowing as little as possible. As a result, discussing tropes found within this work will essentially spoil the entire film. If you're one of the few who doesn't know how it unfolds, it's strongly advised you watch the movie first, then come back.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Agony of the Feet: Asami cuts off Aoyama's left foot with razor wire, and would've done the same to his right had his son not happened to come home early.
    "Without feet, you can't leave."
  • All Men Are Perverts: The MO of Asami.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Asami gets Aoyama in position for torture by putting a drug in his drink that leaves him completely immobile but still able to feel pain.
    • The man in Asami's bag, who lacks an ear, a tongue, and three fingers, and is essentially her slave.
    • Asami's fate - assuming she really is still alive even after having her neck broken horribly and it isn't just Aoyama hallucinating.
  • Asshole Victim: Asami's stepfather.
  • Ax-Crazy: Asami is the epitome of this trope and then some.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted with a vengeance. Asami is as beautiful as she is psychotic and violent.
  • Beware the Nice Ones / Beware the Quiet Ones: Asami, who hides her true psychotic nature underneath a gentle, polite demeanor.
  • Big Bad: Asami Yamazaki, a Yandere with a penchant for torture.
  • 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 poor 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Aoyama's son, Shigehiko, manages to save his father from a horrific death at the hands of Asami, kicking her down a flight of stairs causing her neck to snap. Unfortunately, Aoyama has suffered absolutely horrific torture, and the ending implies he may be just a tad crazy as a result of what he's seen and endured.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The only character who isn't sleazy, psychotic, or kind of an asshole is Shigehiko Aoyama. Well, as far as we know from what we see of him.
  • Break the Cutie: Asami comes conveniently pre-broken from years of abuse.
  • Brown Note: The movie proved to be this. At the Swiss premiere, someone passed out and had to be taken to the emergency room. Additonally, the torture sequence proved too much for several seasoned gorehound directors (see Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth, below).
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Asami, to such an extent that having a family at all breaks her rule of absolute monogamy and warrants torturous punishment.
    "Tell me you'll love only me..."
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The last twenty minutes, in which Asami sticks needles in Aoyama and cuts off his foot.
  • Creepy Monotone: Once her true character is revealed, Asami's never-changing high speaking tone starts to sound like this.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Asami 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The sole reason why Asami tortures Aoyama with acupuncture needles and cuts off his foot with razor wire? He has a family.
    • 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 the Bag Man himself...
  • 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: Asami sticks Aoyama with needles all over his body...including his eyes.
  • Fan Disservice: Averted in the movie adaptation, but the original novel includes graphic detail about the aftermath of Asami and Aoyama's tryst in the hotel, specifically regarding the dried-up semen on and around Aoyama's genitals and pubic hair. Serves to enhance the sheer, startling effect of Asami having suddenly vanished while he was asleep.
  • Fantastic Drug: The paralysing 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.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Bag Man, who is eternally confined to being Asami's mutilated slave.
  • Fauxshadow: An beautiful woman in an Ethereal White Dress 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...
  • Fingore: Bag Man is missing at least three fingers on one hand.
  • 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. This is the rare film where the tragic back story makes a character scarier, not more sympathetic.
  • 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?
  • 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).
  • Giggling Villain: Asami is having too goddamn much fun at the end...
    • Also Asami's stepfather.
  • 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.
  • Gut Punch: The first 45 minutes could easily be mistaken for a romantic drama in which everything is slightly... off. Then we get Asami's Establishing Character Moment, and the genre shift slams in.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Asami's apron and gloves during the torture scene.
  • 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.
  • Lecherous Stepparent: Asami's evil stepfather sexually abused her when she was just a child.
  • Light Is Not Good: Asami is predominantly seen wearing white, before and after she's revealed to be psychotic. Fridge Brilliance when you remember the color white is associated with death in Japan.
  • Love at First Sight: Aoyama is immediately attracted to Asami just from seeing her photo and reading her essay.
  • Mind Screw: Everything after Aoyama decides to try finding a missing Asami himself dives headfirst into surrealism territory, up to and including its weird ending.
  • Missing Mom: Aoyama's wife/Shigehiko's mother dies of an unspecified illness at the very start of the film. Confirmed in the novel to be a form of cancer.
  • Neck Snap: While pursuing Shigehiko, Asami is pushed down the stairs, breaking her neck.
  • Nothing Nice About Sugar and Spice: Asami appears to be the perfect woman: a soft-spoken, badly abused ballet dancer who always wears white and just wants to be loved. However, if she senses she has any competition - regardless of what it is - she will drug, torture, and slowly, sadistically dismember them...while retaining her soft voice and childlike manner.
  • 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.
  • One-Word Title
  • 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. Averted somewhat in the original novel as it's Aoyama's friend who comes up with the idea, and both of them also have the intention of making the movie they're auditioning for as well if they can secure the funding.
    • 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.
  • Psychological Horror
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: The abuse and trauma Asami endured at the hands of her stepfather have left her emotionally and psychologically stunted. As she's torturing her victims, her sadistic glee in the act is almost childlike, lending credence to the idea that Asami never grew past her trauma.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Asami during the torture scene, before it turns into an outright Slasher Smile when she's severing Aoyama's foot.
  • Razor Floss: Piano wire in this case.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Too bad the steel is made of acupuncture needles and razor wire...
  • Spanner in the Works: Shigehiko comes home just in the nick of time.
  • Spoiler Cover: The film disguises itself as a love story for its first half before its descent into horror, but every single one of its posters and release covers prominently displays its "love interest" playing with Razor Wire and syringes, completely ruining the Genre Shift surprise.
    • That's ignoring, of course, the scene in which she's waiting for his call while something in a bag shifts besides her.
  • Stepford Smiler: Asami.
    "I was never happy. I was always unhappy." [pulls razor wire tight]
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: In hindsight, Aoyama might have been better off with one of these...
  • Tongue Trauma:
    • Not mangled. Removed entirely and left on the floor.
    • Asami also injects Aoyama's tongue with a huge syringe.
  • Too Desperate to Be Picky: The Man In The Bag is willing to lap up fresh vomit out of a doggie bowl. Thought it's likely he's beyond psychologically broken at this point to even care what is it he is lapping up.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The torture sequence in this movie was wrenching enough to disturb a number of seasoned gorehound directors, including Eli Roth, John Landis, and Rob Zombie.
  • Torture Porn: Often framed as something of a Ur-Example in public discourse, with its attachment to the aforementioned directors of uber-violent films amplifying this argument. However, some have tried to distance Audition from this wave of films, arguing that it focuses less on the scares of gory money shots and more on the disturbing effect of its characters' motivations.
  • 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.
  • Uncanny Valley Girl: Asami.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Shigehiko, by convincing Aoyama to remarry in the first place, as well as Yasuhisa, the inventor of the "audition" idea.
    • However, Shigehiko does eventually redeem himself by stopping Asami's torture and (maybe) killing her.
  • Villainous Incest: Asami's stepfather physically and sexually abused Asami when she was a little girl. This resulted in her becoming psychologically damaged.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Asami induces vomiting just around a corner, and then immediately subverts it when she brings the brimming bowl of puke in for her former boyfriend to eat.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: My Chemical Romance's Music Video for their song "Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us" recounts the plot of the movie, interspersed with clips of the band playing.
  • Woman Scorned: The pre-emptive type.
    • But also done after the fact with her previous boyfriend.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Possibly Asami.
  • 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.