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A magnificent nerve-shredder
on 9 September 2002
If you read all the blurb written about this film, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a Japanese ultra-violent "Fatal Attraction" clone. After all the plot is deceptively simple - middle-aged widower looks for new love, holds fake audition, meets girl, girl becomes mysterious, girl gets nasty...
However, "Audition" is a dark masterpiece, drifting effortlessly from romantic melodrama into dizzying dreamscapes and finally skin-crawling horror. What's more, the viewer is left with nothing but sympathy for both the menacing Asami and her hapless suitor.
Okay, the violence. Well, while the last hour or so does become gruelling, a lot of it is actually suggested rather than shown explicitly. What's more there are no sudden shocks and brutal slayings, as in most American horror films. Instead, the viewer is forced to watch, as helpless as Asami's victim, as she explains the result of a childhood of abuse. "Words can create lies," she says. "Only pain can be trusted".
The same is true of the film's depiction of sex. Asami undresses, but refreshingly we see little nudity - maintaining the feeling of shy innocence that surrounds her. Nothing in this astonishing movie has been designed to tittilate. The performances are all top-notch, especially the two leads. The film's protagonist is seen looking for an "obedient" wife, but ultimately he is a lonely man looking for affection, not a sexist brute. And as for Asami herself... well, when her murderous nature is revealed she thankfully does not turn into a hammy, eye-rolling maniac. Rather, she is controlled, almost as demure as before, carefully explaining her plans in her childlike, sing-song voice. As she murmurs "Kiri kiri kiri" (Japanese for "Deeper, deeper..."), it's enough to freeze the blood.
Ultimately, there is no denying that "Audition" is a harrowing descent into real darkness, but if you think you can make the journey it is a stunning and highly rewarding film. Rather than revulsion I was left feeling pity for the main characters. And having seen it several times I find parts of the dream sequences far more disturbing than the much-discussed climax (especially the scene with the sack... you'll see).