Japan – Making horror beautiful

‘… when you feel the need to inflict pain?’

Is what you might be thinking when someone you know says they are going to watch a horror movie.

Well, maybe not so cut and dry as that but there is a definite attraction to pain in most horror movies, an attraction that Japanese film makers seem to convey so beautifully. With regard to horror movies though, the movie Audition is the most ethereal experience I have ever had.

The director of the movie Audition, Takashi Miike, does not intend to classify his movies as any particular genre, even though after viewing Audition I was left with a feeling that resembled anything but safe. This is a serious warning; if you watch Audition, watch it with friends or family.

Upon seeing Audition I had the expectation that afterwards I would be scared of dark spaces for a while, I wasn’t scared of dark spaces though, I was confused, I was confused about what reality was as a whole and how I existed within it, and that was a wee bit more scarier, hence the reason why you need a familiar face around to see you through it.

The first time I watched Audition I was lucky enough to obtain a copy of it from my lecturer, the second time I watched it– I watched it on YouTube.

However, I don’t recommend this for a first time viewing. The colouring in Audition is one of its best features and the lack of resolution in the gritty YouTube image, cheapens the whole experience, to the point where I wouldn’t bother.

I couldn’t hire it at my local video store but you might have better luck. Otherwise I’m sure you could order it online.

Made in 1999 and set in the present day there is every reason Audition would include some reference to cyber-culture, which in the last decade had made a prominent presence in Japanese Horror, however, culturally I felt the story was more traditional, using family and love as the main destructive forces. Body disfiguration is a key component to its horror value.

My interpretation of the submissive orient did impact how I saw many of the characters’ mannerism, and often when I saw how the women in the film would make themselves small and look down when talking, I thought they were being unnecessarily shy. As I said though, I think this could be my lack of understanding of social dynamics in Asian culture, resulting in me using stereotyping to perceive their presence in conversations. In general I feel a twinge of concern about the position of women in the film, however, the storyline I think might portray enough of a detachment from reality to give it some reprieve.

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3 comments

  1. Thank you for this warning, I’ve recently ‘found’ a copy of this film and hopefully I’ll be watching and commenting on it tomorrow. I had planned to watch it alone, but that might not be such a great idea now that I have some sort of heads up. I don’t think I’ve ever hear someone describe the experience of a movie as ethereal; I guess I’ll understand tomorrow.

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  2. It’s fantastic that you examined the cultural shifts in Japan, in particular ‘cyber-culture’, during the film’s release. Do you believe this is post cyber-culture in Japan, or were there more films that deal with cyber-culture after The Audition? Also do you think the ‘cyber-fear’ paradigm is more accessible for yourself than the traditional elements in the film?
    I found out that My Chemical Romance’s music video for their song ‘Honey this Mirror isn’t big enough…’ uses clips from ‘The Audition’ and shares a similar story line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1BaqEcb330. I was told by a user that this is an easier way to consume ‘The Audition’. I’m not sure how much the film influences their song, but the clips integrate seamlessly into the video.

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