It is perhaps difficult to decide as to whether this film presents its particularly disturbing and violent images for shock value, or for more ‘artistic’ reasons, and I happen to believe that it is doing a lot more than simply trying to scare its audience, but whatever its intent it utterly succeeds at creating an involving, suspenseful, and lingering atmosphere. Audition will certainly stick with you for a considerable time after you finish watching it.
The basic plot of the film is that a man (Ryo Ishibashi) who has been grieving for his wife for a number of years is finally prompted into looking for a new partner by his son. To conduct his search he uses an audition for a movie as cover, and through this process meets Asami (Eihi Shiina) – a woman who may have a little more to her than what first meets the eye. Ishibashi gives a good performance here, however it is Shiina who is easily the stand out; Asmai is an enigma and therefore allows Shiina the freedom to really express many different sides and interpretations to her character. She can draw out many different reactions from us, and it is the strength of her performance which the success of the film rests on. That’s not to diminish other aspects of the movie; the tone, score, and direction are all impressive, but her role is of such vital importance to the film, that if a lesser performance had been given then the whole lot would amount to very little.
Audition, to some extent at least, explores obsession, sadism, and patriarchal gender construction, but it also equally exists to disgust and repel us. It doesn’t hold back and could easily sicken many viewers, and its for that reason, as well as the deliberately patchwork editing together of scenes which occurs in the second half of the film, which makes this a somewhat abrasive film, and one that isn’t to everybody’s taste. I would however recommend seeing it, every element of it is handled very well, and although it is far from my normal comfort zone, I found myself becoming engrossed and haunted by it very quickly indeed. It’s a subtle film at times, but that only serves to build you up for its more direct moments.