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Review Audition (1999)

“AUDITION” (1999)
By Takashi Miike | Japan
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The best kind of horror is one which guises itself — a wolf in sheep clothing, you might say. It is that sense of eeriness, that ever present dangerous that you can’t predict that will send you the most chills through the spine. This is especially true in “Audition”, a film that relishes in subtlety and build up until it explodes into a full blown nightmare.
It starts off with a simple story of a widower, Aoyama, whose wife died years ago and is now living only with his teenage son. Seeing his father unhappy state, his son suggests him to start dating and possibly remarried in the future — a suggestion he eventually followed. “Let’s do an audition,” his co-worker suggests him, as means me to select the right candidate to be a “suitable” wife and so they did. Flipping through pages of resume, a particular young girl caught Aoyama’s attention. The girl is Asami, a timid, seemingly powerless girl, which of course isn’t what she presents herself as.
Similarly to its story, “Audition” is a film with two different themes from two different sides. First is a film about letting go, which of course presents itself through Aoyama’s story as it asks us a dilemma we often face: is letting go the thing we want? More often than not people tell us to move on and to forget the past things we already loose but at the same time, isn’t that devaluing what we had back then? Here, Aoyama is faced with the decision to move on from his late wife and remarried. This sort of conflict, especially in horror, usually punish those who decided to cling on. But here the table is flipped, as Aoyama is punished instead for moving on. An interesting subversion from the usual message we heard about grief and about memories.
Then the film also has another story, a darker one, which ultimately became a feminist message — a strong and violent one, I might add — in Asami’s story. Timid and almosy non-challenging on her outside, Asami became a soft target for men who wants to dominate her. Through her life, this has been true, for men, weak men, has a tendency to look for women who are inferior than they are. This behavior shaped a certain social demand for women to be soft-spoken, to look down when spoken to, to never argue and always agreeing to the arrogance of men — especially of asian cultures. Our Aoyama is most especially guilty of this mindset. Though he looked innocent, it is this desire of Aoyama for a submissive, non-existent wife which drove him to his horrifying experiences. It is that enchantment of Asami’s literal disability of not being able to pursue her dream, that Aoyama turns from innocent to almost a creepily toxic individual. When we see him with Asami, we know deep down he never truly listens to her rant of how difficult her life has been. And that his compassion, his empathy, are nothing but hollow promises and attention men often gave their vulnerable prey to extract their gratitude and undying love. Seeing it this way changes things. If at first the horrors of “Audition” seem to came from Asami’s hidden tendency of psychotic and violent behaviors; by looking through her eyes we see this story as a horror from the get go. And it has never been a story of a predator and a prey, but two different predators with two different hunting skills. Battling until one overthrows the other to submission.
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“Audition”, like any other horror, serves a deeper story beneath the already hidden horrors of its actual story. It’s a film that slowly builts to a sickening degree of violence and is a film that I would hate to watch ever again — proving its success to terrify me.
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