Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan
Actors: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki
I remember the first time I ever hear of Takashi Miike's Audition was in an interview with Quentin Tarintino. He was listing off his top 20 movies that have been made since he started making films. For the most part, I enjoy most of the films that were on the list and still to this day I thoroughly enjoy his taste and thoughts on movies. I remember when he mentioned Audition he specifically described it as "A true masterpiece, if there ever is one". That got me curious, and since it is horror month at OWF, I thought why not pick this film and see what it is all about. Unfortunately, no disrespect to Tarintino, but I cannot find anything close to a masterpiece in this film. Here are my thoughts on Audition (1999).
I want to first talk about pacing, since I feel like pacing is such an important element when it comes to horror films specifically. Although I don't enjoy horror films, I have still seen quite a bit of them to know some of the necessary elements in order to make them effective. A horror film essentially at any moment needs to either build up tension or scare you. Take for example The Shining by Kubrick which is my all time favorite horror film. With a 2 hour and 26 minute run time, The Shining know how to effectively pace a horror film. The film gives us an ever growing feeling of tensions and of something being wrong until the horrific climax hits us in the face. I am bringing The Shining up because it does a thing that Audition fails miserably at doing, which is to effectively pace a film. Audition has one of most slowest beginning and middle I have ever seen in a horror film. I understand that tension should be built up slowly. Which is why I mentioned The Shining, because it applies that concept beautifully and gives us a slow and creeping crawl towards the final scare. With Audition however, I just found myself bored throughout the first hour and 20 minutes of the film. Nothing was building up the tension, nothing made me nervous or jittery, and nothing excited me for what is to come. The film goes at a snail's pace until the final quarter where the film finally picks up and has its best moments in my opinion. However, the slow burning beginning and middle section really killed all enthusiasm I had for this film even with the well made finale. All in all, I feel like horror films should be able to effectively pace their films while building up the tension. This slow build up should then be presented with the hard hitting climax that will scare the audience even more than they expected. With Audition unfortunately, I just went in to the climax with droopy eyes and a willingness for the film to be over.
To be honest there is not much to say specifically about Audition. The first half of the film is a very slow and dragged melodrama that I did not really care for. Yes, the camera work along with the editing managed to keep me intrigued for a bit. However, it was not enough to keep me at the edge of my seat. The performances as well were alright but nothing to write home about. Overall I really did not see anything special about what Audition was trying to achieve with the whole film. I understand the main premise and themes of misogyny and abuse, yet they were not able to be fully flesh out due to the first half of the film.
However, the film managed to redeem itself with the final quarter, only a little though. When the final quarter kicks in, it is then where I was really interested and started moving towards the edge of my seat. If Takashi Miike was trying to make us disgusted then he did just that with the final quarter of this film. The scenes that occur were so disturbing and graphic that it stuck with my head for the next couple of days. Which I guess is a success on the part of the film because that is what horror films are supposed to do. The insane surrealist moments really helped elaborate more on the themes of abuse, yet for me it was too late for the viewer to be able to expand on these themes and is just left feeling a bit empty. The glimpses of memories that the main character goes through after drinking the alcohol manages to effectively challenge the viewers perception. We have hope that maybe what we saw with the alcohol was not reality and this is all a big dream. Unfortunately, the dream gets popped abruptly and we finally get the to the chilling climax. The scene that follows was really disturbing and the way it was shot and edited added to that. The scene took its time, which is not something you always see in horror films. We got this slow torturous scene that didn't seem to end. Even now I can still hear the sound of the character saying "deeper, deeper, deeper" as she inserts those needles into the poor man. By drawing out the scene rather than having just a sudden scare, the audience get this ever growing feeling of discomfort. This discomfort keeps on getting amplified with each second the scene continues. This final quarter of the film is the biggest strength that Audition has and it is one that many horror films after it probably took inspiration from. In conclusion, although the final quarter of the film impressed me quite a bit, it was not enough to make forget about the awful beginning and middle that bored me to death.
Audition is a film which I should enjoy. It has the perfect formula for films I enjoy, great use of camera work, care for themes, surrealism, and a nerve wracking climax. However, the issues with pacing and storytelling which occurred in the first hour and a half of the film really put a sour taste in my mouth. Even after the great end, I could not stop thinking about how bored I was watching the first half of the film. Sorry Mr. Tarintino, but this time I have to disagree with you.