Friday, January 8, 2010

Dissecting Takashi Miike's 'Audition'



When I first saw Audition, several years ago, I enjoyed it - but I didn't get it. I enjoyed it because it was sick and twisted and I enjoyed it because it disturbed me - but again, I didn't understand it and what it was trying to say. For that reason, and for the reason that I was kinda bored while watching it several years ago, I never bothered to revisit Audition. I would tell people to watch it and I considered myself a fan, but I didn't really care to go back to it and try to figure it out. That is, until the other night when I was picking a movie to watch with Jen. It's become a bit of a nightly tradition for us to watch a movie and then talk about it afterwards and while I initially picked Audition for this particular movie night, even going so far as to pop it into the DVD player, I soon took it out and filed it back on the shelf, thinking Jen wouldn't be into it and thinking I didn't really want to sit through a movie I didn't understand again. Though she only saw the menu screen on the TV, Jen told me to put it back in (har har) - she wanted to watch it and i'm glad we ended up doing so because she changed my whole perception of the movie and I now don't just like it because it's fucked up, I like it because I understand it.....and because it's fucked up. I know Miike kinda left the film open ended so that the individual viewer could draw his own conclusions as to what he just saw and so I know that Jen's interpretation is not necessarily the be all end all way to look at the film, but it totally works for me and it's the best way of looking at it that i've ever heard. So i'm gonna do my best to regurgitate what Jen said to me after watching it, as well as provide some of my own insights, and for anyone who has seen Audition, i'd love for you to leave a comment and give me your own interpretation of the film.

Although interpretations of the film vary widely, the main point of discussion is whether or not the latter events of the film actually happened or if they were merely the main character's dreams/nightmares. Did that crazy Japanese chick really cut that dude's feet off and turn him into a human pin cushion or was that just the world's worst nightmare? According to Jen, and now according to me, that was all a nightmare. In fact, everything post dude sticking his junk into Japanese chick was a nightmare. They have sex, he falls asleep, and the rest of the movie is what's going on in his head now that he's actually thinking about this girl for the first time - with his brain instead of his dick. Up until this point, Aoyama has been blinded by lust and is not using his head, he's just jumping right into things because he wants to get laid - I think every man can relate. To top it all off, his own son just told him that he doesn't look young anymore. How does an old man feel young again? By shacking up with a dame that's closer to the age of his son than to himself. And so, blinded by his desire and desperation, he doesn't listen to his friends' advice that this girl is bad news, he doesn't worry about the fact that all of the stories she told in her audition are turning out to be lies, and he's not curious about the strange scars on her legs or the fact that she seems a little bit off and a tad bit obsessive - he just wants to get his rocks off. He's been alone for so long, after the death of his wife, and he's blindly in lust - or "love", as perceives it at this point. Now once he gets his rocks off, that's a whole different story and that's where this film takes a sharp turn into horrific territory.

Once he gets what he wants, Aoyama heads off to la la land, and that's where all of his fears and worries become fully realized. He no longer has the veil of lust shadowing his fears, they are fully uncovered and he can't ignore them. How did those horrible scars get on Asami's legs? He dreams up a horrific answer to that question in the form of a scary dude with crippled legs burning her - when in reality it probably went down in a much less frightening way. He wonders about that bar that Asami claimed to work at. Did that bar ever really even exist? Why can no traces of it be found? He dreams up a horrific answer to that question too. The bar is shut down because the owner was killed and chopped up into pieces - perhaps at the hands of the girl he was just inside. And what about that record company director that Asami claimed to have a connection with? Why did he mysteriously dissapear? In Aoyama's twisted nightmare, he sits in a bag (which probably represents Asami's potential 'baggage') on Asami's floor, footless, fingerless, and tongueless (an idea he got from the part of the dream where he visits the shut down bar), and drinks Asami's vomit. In other words, he imagines all of the most horrible things he can imagine for all of the strange pieces of information he has about the girl he just slept with. Isn't that exactly how the mind works when it's all fucked up with fear - imagining the absolute worst of every situation? And then his fears all come to a head as he imagines himself becoming the next of Asami's victims - which leads to one of the most painful torture scenes of all time.

Because he dreamt up Asami using a sharp piano wire (remember that he earlier dreamed of the old crippled man playing piano - this is the way dreams work) and having a knack for cutting off people's feet, so they can't get away from her ("Love me. Only me"), Aoyama naturally imagines Asami cutting off his own feet with that same piano wire. As soon as his son walks into the room and is about to be attacked by Asami, Aoyama awakes from his nightmare, comforted by the fact that his feet are still connected to his legs. Asami lays in bed next to him and this is the moment we realize that this is where the two characters have been since they went to sleep after having sex an hour earlier - everything in between these two moments did not really happen. Aoyama then falls back asleep and his nightmare continues, right where it left off. I don't know about you, but i've had that happen plenty of times before. In the remainder of the nightmare, there's no more torture. In fact, Aoyama's son kills Asami and her and Aoyama almost even have a tender moment wherein she apologizes for being a little bit obsessive and "childish" (she's talking after being killed, this is obviously not really happening). In my opinion, this is showing Aoyama struggling with the question of whether Asami is good or evil. In the first half of the nightmare she's pure evil, but in the second half, after waking up next to her and seeing her being sweet, she comes off a bit sweeter. Makes sense, doesn't it? He's not sure what to think, but he's now hoping for the best, being that the worst isn't too pretty of an outlook.

So is Asami evil or is she a sweetheart? We'll never know but in all likelihood there's not a harmful bone in her body. All of her evil was projected on her by Aoyama and it was all merely representing the fears that he had about jumping so quickly and heavily into a relationship with a total stranger, and a stranger who's a little bit off at that. She may not be totally "normal", but that doesn't make her an evil bitch. Does he stay with her? Does he let his fears get the best of him and run like hell away from her? Again, we'll never know. But it doesn't really matter. It's a story about relationships and how we never really know who we're getting involved with and it's a beautiful and terrifyingly haunting story that I am happy to say I finally understand and can even relate to, as I think we all can.

So thank you Jen for opening my mind up about the movie and for making it more than just another sick and twisted Japanese horror flick for me. I now see what all the buzz is about when it comes to this movie and I now think it's fully deserving of all the praise it has gotten over the years.

But don't just agree with what i've written here because like I said, there are surely many different ways to interpret the film and i'm not saying that what i've written is the only or best way to look at it. I want to know how YOU interpreted Audition when you first watched it, so leave a comment and let me know.

16 comments:

Chris Hallock said...

Glad to have a new post from you!

I feel the same as you. I loved it, but definitely need another viewing to fully understand and articulate my thoughts. It's also a movie I'm hesitant to recommend to the most casual movie-goers of my circle of friends.

What I do love about Miike is the way his films are parodies of basically every popular type of genre in Japan, and often his work is better than that which he's making fun.

I'm gonna go for a second viewing of Audition this weekend and respond again.

Johnny said...

Awesome, can't wait to hear your thoughts Chris.

Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

Great post. Really crazy film. I should give it a re watch.

Chris Hallock said...

It would be cool if all us regular joe horror bloggers could do a really great roundtable discussion sometime. Audition would be a good one.

Johnny said...

I'd be up for that!

The Frog Queen said...

I am also glad to see a post from you.

Thanks for this post. I have to say I never finished watching this one. I don't mind violence, that was not the point...infact that was my problem...didn't see the point (except that I thought my brother was playing a trick on my telling me how great this was :D ) and stopped watching.

Looks like I need to find a copy and watch it again. Going to do that this weekend.

See, this is why I love reading blogs.....I would have never touched that movie again if I had not read this. And it looks like I would be really missing something. Thanks!

Cheers!

Johnny said...

Frog Queen - So glad to hear that you're gonna give the movie another watch. Though I liked it when I first saw it, I too was always confused as to why people thought this movie was so great. I get it now, which is why it's so important to watch movies with other people and listen to other people's views on movies. Sometimes it takes an outside viewpoint for you to really make sense of what you've just seen. It's pretty impossible to really enjoy a movie that you don't understand and sometimes when it's laid out for you, you really fall in love with it.

Zach said...

Fully agree with you. The whole film takes a dream like approach to the violence and everything that happens is so over-the-top terrible that it seems like he is lost in his own personal hell. This is him projecting his natural apprehensions about getting into a relationship after having lost his wife. He will be worried about losing his new "love" or worse: it isn't really a "love" at all, but instead a twisted situation that he has willingly thrust himself into (innuendo intended).

Basically Audition boils down to every man's worst nightmare in a relationship department. It's also what every guy goes through thinking in the beginning of a new relationship, even if it is taken to an extreme.

Johnny said...

Right on, Zach. If there were ever an ultimate male nightmare flick, it's definetly Audition! As Eli Roth said in Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, "There's sometimes where you're on a date and you're thinking 'this chick is totally nuts' and Audition is the ultimate version of that horrible horrible date scenario."

oducerproducer said...

(har har) indeed good sire, (har har) indeed.

Anyhow, it's been a while since i've watched it, first time much like yourself, i enjoyed it but was underwhelmed by it(well technicaly you said you didn't get it but we both enjoyed it but had our own offputtings on it). Second time was to show it to a friend, i liked it more but watching confusion on their faces & explaining stuff, distracted me. Third time was on an asian film marathon i was watching of my dvd's. I may need to watch it again to "dissect" it, but with each viewing i found it to go easier. It is a tad slow at times, but it builds up well, and the last 20 minutes or so really pay off.

Jayson said...

Need to see this again, waiting on the Blu-ray to arrive actually...

James said...

Fantastic stuff, Johnny! Interesting conclusion you guys drew about various parts of the film being a nightmare. Its high time I revisited this one. Have a great weekend.

B-Movie Becky said...

Hmmm. It's been a while since I saw the movie and I guess I just assumed at least some of it had really happened, but Jen's thoughts make sense. For whatever reason, I wasn't inclined to think too deeply about Audition and I've never felt like watching it again. Maybe I'll give it another shot, but I have to find a time when no one else is around because it's not a favorite in my house.

Brian said...

Very interesting interpretation, Johnny. I just watched the film in its entirety for the first time last night and will indeed be watching it again (after I build up more nerve!)

I do have one question regarding your interpretation. In the earlier scene when he finally calls Asami, and we see her sitting by the phone and the sack lurches across the room...is that what is going through his mind at the time because he is unsure of where she lives or what she's doing?

That's the great thing about this film...you can interpret it in many ways and maybe apply a certain interpretation to stick with for each individual viewing, therefore increasing its replay value.

Thanks again, your comments really helped me see it in a new light.

Johnny said...

Yep, that's the way I interpreted that scene.

Glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for reading =)

Anonymous said...

I always thought that he fell asleep while being tortured. Him waking up next to Asami was a dream and his n son entering the house brings him back to reality. But then another way of looking at things. .... interesting