Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura
Director: Takashi Miike
Running Time: 115 mins
Audition is a Japanese film about a lonely widower who, looking to find a woman to marry, takes up an offer to screen a group of girls for an audition, but the one who catches his eye turns out to be something far more than he expected.
Although it’s a very slow and patient build-up, I’ve never seen a film that gets in my head quite like Audition. It may not have the spectacular nature of some of the more gruesome Japanese horrors, but over the course of its tense first two acts, it keeps you fully on edge, waiting for something insane to happen at any moment.
So, the one thing to know in this film is to be patient, and appreciate how director Takashi Miike builds tension. From the opening act onwards, Audition is as much of a run-of-the-mill drama as any other, with the exception of that deeply eerie and eventually disturbing atmosphere that keeps it fascinating and incredibly tense throughout.
I won’t deny that the first two acts do drag a little at times, but the fact remains that Audition is a very striking and powerfully atmospheric film from the off, as Miike’s fantastic direction combines with some strong and unsettling performances, both from Ryo Ishibashi and Eihi Shiina to make a film that you just can’t take your eyes off.
And the strangest thing about Audition is that, while it gives a few little hints to its darker side, there’s very little to suggest that what you think will happen is going to happen. It’s a deeply affecting watch to the point that it gets in your head before anything has even happened, somehow implanting some very dark ideas in your mind while barely mentioning them on screen. It’s a weird sensation, but it proves hugely effective in keeping things suspenseful over the course of the first two acts.
Then, of course, comes the third act, which brings about everything you expected to happen, and even more that you didn’t. Deeply disturbing and featuring the same spectacle as some of the genre’s other classics, it’s a finale to the film that makes the first hour and a bit fully worth it, and ending the movie on a powerfully unsettling and equally terrifying note.
On the whole, Audition is a fairly simple film, and although it may seem like it takes a long while to get going, what director Takashi Miike is able to do, unsettling you so much despite barely even suggesting anything on screen, is absolutely exceptional, and it’s a patient and deeply tense effort that pays off incredibly come the utterly terrifying final act, which is why I’m giving Audition a 7.7 overall.