Shigeharu Aoyama is entranced by his mysterious new girlfriend, Asami, a very young, timid beauty. Her sweet and submissive demeanor, however, is a façade. Asami is actually a sadist. She believes “Only pain and suffering will make you realize who you are.”

Perhaps if Shigeharu had dated someone his own age he wouldn’t be subjected Asami’s haunting words: “kiri kiri… kiri kiri… kiri kiri…”

Bloody Rundown

Takashi Miike directed this psychological Japanese horror, which is based on Ryu Murakami’s novel and written for the screen by Daisuke Tengan. A provocative and prolific filmmaker, Miike has churned out nearly 100 film and theater productions that span a multitude of genres, from fantasy to horror, including Ichi the Killer (2001).

AsamiMiike is not immune to international controversy, or even censorship. When commissioned to direct a horror short for the 2005 Masters of Horror series, he delivered Imprint. The series appeared on the cable network Showtime who refused to feature Imprint, regarding it as too offensive. (Thankfully, Anchor Bay Entertainment included Miike’s Imprint in their 2006 DVD release of Masters of Horror.) Miike’s critically-acclaimed Audition was also marked with controversy.

Melancholic and surreal, Audition is a cautionary tale on the patriarchy, child abuse, and pervasive gender roles. The drama of the first half slowly progresses into a mystery, and then culminates into a full-on horror. (For horror lovers, the wait is worth it.) Audition garnered much notoriety for its gore; yet, the film is hardly a gratuitous bloodfest. The gore is brief, and much of it is shown in the abstract, like a cinematic hallucination. Still, the film is very disturbing.  

Asami on her AuditionThe entire premise of the film deals with loss, and is altogether depressing. Widower Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is encouraged by his teenage son Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) to start dating. Shigeharu conspires with his filmmaker friend, Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), and holds a mock television audition for the role of his future wife. Shigeharu casts angelic contender, Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), a soft-spoken former ballerina. Yasuhisa protests the casting as he unable to confirm any of Asami’s references. Shigeharu disregards his friend’s objections as he is too mesmerized by Asami’s beauty and gentle demeanor. His deceptive nature of attaining a prospective wife is ultimately met with great reprisal.

Asami and Acupunture needlesA victim of child abuse, Asami is profoundly unstable. She is a sadist, and is skilled with implementing pain through garrote wires, syringes, and acupuncture needles. Asami holds one of her missing references captive. He is now confined inside a tied burlap sack on the floor of her barren apartment. She dismembered his feet, one ear, three fingers, and his tongue. Bowl of PukeHe subsides on the vomit that Asami pukes into a dog bowl, and laps it up with such voracity one hopes all his taste buds have been removed. Eihi Shiina is a method actor and the puke shown in the film is actually her own.

The brevity of the torture is gripping and unforgettably haunting. Even though the torture scenes are more psychological than graphic, Audition incites the impulsive double-handed split-finger eye cover. And this is where Takashi Miike’s mastery lies. He triumphs at causing the viewer to wince and recoil in revulsion with his astute combination of what is seen and what is suggested. So atmospheric and thought-provoking, Audition is almost intolerably haunting. Takashi Miike is truly a master of horror.
Asami with a needle

Die-Anne’s Diatribe

The flashbacks and dream sequences are eerie yet confounding; rendering it difficult to decipher what is real and what is imaginary, ultimately blurring the chronological sequence of events. Even so, Audition is captivating and remains one of my favorites.

Deadly Details

Director ∞ Takashi Miike
Producers ∞ Satoshi Fukushima, Akemi Suyama, and Toyoyuki Yokohama
Screenwriter ∞ Daisuke Tengan
Based on ∞ Audition by Ryu Murakami
Music ∞ Kōji Endō
Cinematographer ∞ Hideo Yamamoto
Editor ∞ Yasushi Shimamura
Studios ∞ AFDF, Creators Company Connection, and Omega Project Inc.
Distributor ∞ Vitagraph Films (US)
Release Date ∞ October 1999
Running time ∞ 115 minutes
Country ∞ Japan
Language ∞ Japanese

Cast ∞
Ryo Ishibashi as Shigeharu Aoyama
Eihi Shiina as Asami Yamazaki
Tetsu Sawaki as Shigehiko Aoyama
Jun Kunimura as Yasuhisa Yoshikawa
Renji Ishibashi as the Old Man
Miyuki Matsuda as Ryoko Aoyama
Toshie Negishi as Rie
Ren
Ohsugi as Shimada 
Shigeru Saiki as the Toastmaster
Ken Mitsuishi as the Director
Yuriko Hiro’oka as Michiyo Yanagida
Fumiyo Kohinata as the TV Station Presenter
Misato Nakamura as Misuzu Takagi
Yuuto Arima as Shigehiko as a child
Ayaka Izumi as Asami as a child
Nattsu Tanabashi  as the Hotel Clerk
Kimiko Tachibana as the Radio Announcer
Tatsuo Endô as the Doctor
Koshio Jindôji as the Nurse
Kanji Tsuda as the Bartender