Saturday, February 12, 2011

Audition – Memoirs of a wire-saw wielding geisha

A still from Audition

Okay. I need to get this off my chest; or my back. And I need to do it now. It’s been a few days since I saw Audition – the Japanese shocker from Takashi Miike, a director whose body of work I came to know about, having read up on Eli Roth. Yes, Eli is the director of the gorno (gore porno) hit Hostel. My first impression of this post millennial psychological thriller – it’s unnerving.

Why?

Because the introductory commentary on the DVD has its director informing us, “If you feel sick while watching the movie, you can pause the film and watch it tomorrow.” As an afterthought, he adds, “I hope you enjoy the film.”

But that wasn’t the reason I was left feeling breathless.

I’ll tell you what managed to get me into that state, without of course, giving away the ending or revealing crucial plot points. Palpitation set in primarily due to a strange sequence towards the end of the film that features immaculate, almost exemplary sound design. It just so happens that your stomach might not allow you to get that far. That’s because a constantly churning belly is hard to lug around, especially when the journey involves terrifyingly bizarre sequences, the likes of which I haven’t seen since God knows how long.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. There are no supernatural forces at work in Audition. So much so, it’s the ordinariness of the premise that makes it all the more terrifying. There aren’t too many boo sequences. But I can admit without any embarrassment, there were times I tried viewing my screen from the corner of my eye, to lower the risk of sudden spooks. Needless to say, I failed miserably as the scary bits were not scattered all over the film as is common with most mainstream horror flicks. The spooks in Audition were there to stay.

The plot line to this romantic thriller is wafer thin. Recently widowed producer scouts for a new wife by conducting fake auditions for a film that will never be made. Stumbles upon a dainty little damsel who he thinks, might qualify as the woman of his dreams. Bad news – she does qualify, but as a cheerleader, flashing pompoms of his nightmares. As the film proceeds, you get to know that the lady is not all she appears to be. There is an ominous presence in the film that is introduced to audiences early on. Believe me when I say this, creepy doesn’t even begin describing how this scene plays out in the movie.

But then, you as the viewer will realise something special from the very beginning. For a change, you actually empathise with the protagonist in a horror film. He is not just another expendable, ready to be tossed off mercilessly as a casualty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You will experience a genuine sense of loss as he converses with his young son in a language filled only with gazes and eye contact, after the schoolgoer arrives a tad too late to find his mother breathe her last on the hospital deathbed. His gift never finds its way to her hands. And you feel sorrier for the same.

Similarly interspersed are moments of sincere emotional resonance, like when you find the father giving a thumbs up to his teenaged son, now all grown up, who has just brought his girlfriend home for the first time. The interaction between the girl and the boy's father will play out once again, but you might be in for a surprise when it does so, the second time, owing to the pure mindbending allusions it brings with it.

Another confession I have to make is concerning the nine winks I stole during the course of the film. There is a sense of deliberate pacing throughout the first three quarters of the film. And my eyes, which were trained to absorb MTV style, hip-hop montages found such sedentary compositions with minimal dialogue and extended takes, a direct assault on the visual senses. In fact, horror aficionados vouch for the fact that the first one and a half hours of Audition, is purely a buildup for the last 15 minutes. Which, many might like to describe as ‘nothing much happens for most of the movie.’

I’d like to leave you with some food for thought. During a particularly intense scene in the film, referred to in the director’s commentary, Miike makes a remark asking audiences to pay attention to the sound effects accompanying the visuals, which are quite frankly, hard to digest. There is an almost unbridled sense of glee in the filmmaker’s tone as he draws our attention to the sound effects, like it was the result of several man-hours of carefully planned filmmaking. You can bet your life on it. It is. And it’s also why you might not find yourselves in a position to get that far, at least with respect to watching the film, let alone return for second servings.

Or as Miike says, "You can always watch it tomorrow."

This post is an entry to the Reel-Life Bloggers contest organized by wogma.com and reviewgang.com

6 comments:

  1. seems interesting.

    But,

    i can watch it tomorrow, right?

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  3. Seriously Bijoy.. though I know it is some really horrible movie that I will never watch with my eyes open.. your review has tempted me to actually get the CD and watch it :)

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  4. Thanks Meera, I am so happy you're willing to experiment and step beyond the confines of safe cinema.. No matter how scary, remember, it's just a movie.. Although, it's strange the way the human mind interprets moving pictures and allows it to form an imprint on it forever...

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  5. this is one hell of a movie.. as u said, the first three quarters was just a build up to the dreamy creepy final sequence.. more than the visual gore, I couldnt stomach a few sequences, where the antagonist, feeds a victim.. lots of superb sequences that left me cringing.. i think the horror comes from the fact that most of the things shown in the movie, is very much possible, unlike zombie apocalypses and 2012s :)

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  6. totally... there is a sense of plausibility in the proceedings... and that's terrifying..

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