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Audition has been for years consistently described as highly disturbing for torture content. But from seeing it myself after being warded off, Audition has left me impressed with how well built the unnerving atmosphere is, as opposed to anything visually gruesome.
In fact, I was delighted to see there wasn't an excessive emphasis on gore. The reliance on tension was key. What was left to the imagination and subtleties are Audition's strengths, notably Asami's fruitcake ballet tutor. Of course, during the concussion/hallucination sequence, the deformed torture victim lapping up Asami's freshly regurgitated vomit will serve as eye candy for anyone wishing to be revolted, I am sure. There was also a fair use of piano wire in Audition. The gore simply wasn't anything notable by today's standards.
Audition is a slow burner, starring Ryo Ishibashi as the widowed protagonist Shigeharu, whom I had previously seen in the remake of The Grudge, as Detective Nakagawa. Predictably, from what I had already sampled of his more recent involvement in film, in Audition he served as a very much one dimensional character. In particular, the initial hospital scene seemed rigid and unnatural in terms of acting. Alongside the garish piano soundtrack (which, usually characterises many Asian horror films) this offset the intended atmosphere of sadness. Audition progresses into sinister territory as we follow Shigeharu's journey of unfolding Asami's background, following her mysterious disappearance.
However, Shigeharu met his much deserved end, following his deceiving machinations. Comparatively, much in the vein of House of 1000 Corpses, as a viewer one is more inclined to achieve gratification sympathising with the 'villain'. Which, I feel we are obviously more inclined to align with. Asami is painted for the majority of the film, a meek and emotionally damaged woman, who elaborates to have had her lifelong aspirations crushed. While, Shigeharu is seen to be passively manipulating women through his co worker's objectifying suggestions. We can only sympathise with his character to a little extent given the death of his wife, which he seemed generally unresponsive towards.
Much like the structure of the highly overhyped and controversial Megan is Missing (which one could assume has taken influence from Audition in its similarities), the entirety of graphic/bizarre visuals are contained within the final 20-30 minutes of the film. Descending into a disorienting hallucination sequence, leaving the audience confused as to whether chronologically we have jumped back to an earlier stage of the film, and with the madness being all a delusion.
Incidentally, in the final scenes is where my main complaints with Audition would be. Specifically where Shigeharu was supposed to be paralysed. I say supposed, given he was mobile enough to be violently jerking about and screaming. It not only seemed infuriatingly unconvincing, considering it would be physically impossible, but also highly illogical for the actor to be doing so. As if, mid way through such a crucial segment of the film, everyone on set had forgotten Asami's character had stated she had paralysed him? Symptomatic of a rushed ending perhaps?
That aside, I was impressed for all the right reasons with Audition. Although it wasn't as flawless as it could have been with some careful (rational) reconsideration, it also wasn't exaggeratedly repulsive as I'd been led to believe. Rather, transpired to be a cleverly constructed and somewhat fetishistic thriller. With ample piano wire.
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis