Audition (1999)

“This wire can cut through meat and bone easily.”

‘Audition’, directed by Takashi Miike in 1999, is part of a cycle of Japanese horror movies, but one that is less supernatural and, until the final scenes, more subtle than some of its counterparts. It tells the story of a widower, Shigeharu Aoyama, who is persuaded to ‘cast’ a new wife by pretending to be a film director. A particular woman, Asami Yamazaki, catches his eye and the rest of the movie is a game of cat and mouse as the woman entices him towards a shockingly visceral fate. As with a film like ‘Psycho’ it’s a film that misdirects the viewer. The bulk of it is a psychological thriller, a mystery about this woman who keeps disappearing. The horror, and it is very horrific, builds slowly. By the time of the final torture sequence you have completely invested in the central character and you have a good idea of what he is about to endure. Every primal fear is accessed in these scenes: needles, paralysis, nasty things involving tongues and feet. It’s not easy to watch, but the skill with which it’s directed and the subtlety that Miike uses in generating tension makes it worth it and makes the final scenes a form of anti-catharsis. It’s a dark movie, shot without flourishes or unnecessary gimmicks. The performances are, for the most part, underplayed until the torture scene when Yamazaki becomes mesmerisingly deranged and lets loose with needles and piano wire.

Would I recommend it? It’s not for everyone – it’s very much the forerunner of the ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’ movies, but psychologically more profound and more delicately directed.

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