Audition ★★★½

Takeshi Miike’s Audition doesn’t hide the fact that there is something sinister that circles around his female lead, whom we are introduced as an ex-ballerina with a mysterious past. Asami Yamasaki (Eihi Shiina) is a 24-year-old who stumbles herself into an audition, hosted by a man, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), who is fronting an audition for a film production in order to find himself a potential new bride. From her immediate introduction, her perceived purity and glow seems all too perfect and inviting, a quality that has clearly blinded Shigeharu as the infatuation swallows him deeper. 

The film’s marketing and the legacy that it has established itself over the years has allowed me to gain the idea that what I would be diving into would be a shocking and confronting experience. However, such expectations were defied as it wasn’t merely the sense of grotesque imagery and dark themes that the film plays with, but rather the manner that Miike executes it, particularly in the film’s climax, that drew out emotional reactions from me. It was here, at the film’s critical point, that all of the film’s cards were finally dealt, one that was deliberately handed to us in a scattered pattern, forcing us to actively decipher it all.

This was an approach that I personally appreciated and it allowed the film to gain a sort of ambiguous texture that invites repetitive viewing. Such an interesting weave in it’s storytelling does also compensate for the film’s slightly problematic characterisation, notably of the side of Asami, whom the film provides some historical uncovering, but with detailing that actually lacks nuance, thus leaving her actions feeling incomplete in it’s justification. It can be said that Miike’s withholding for such refinement is a purposeful approach to draw audiences into assembling their own conclusions, but personally, I would have loved a little more for me to gather in order to make the entire narrative arc seem more engaging.

It is also worthy of note that though Shigeharu’s position as the clueless victim of potential sinister outcomes, he is also a vessel that the film’s script lacked in tracing a thoughtful arc for. These experiences he endures, is it meant to be a punishment or rather a cautionary tale? It can be said that such could be left to interpretation, but teases towards such feel drowned and muted to the point where one could easily dismiss it upon passing. A subsequent viewing could remedy such an issue as I would no longer have my attention be glued to the plotting and instead dig into the ideas and details that were previously obscured.

Audition lures the audience in through the sympathetic sadness of it’s protagonist, only to realise the spiderweb that they now find themselves in. In the centre, a climactic point that is as disorientating and curious as Miike intends the narrative to be. It leaves audiences with more question rather than answers, with the intention of perspective of being the crucial decider of the actual outcome. Despite elements that I feel the film could have greater addressed and polished, there is something so attractive in the way Audition enchants you in, constantly thinking on what it has to offer next and how far it possibly could go.

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