August 9, 2001 [Audition]

I've heard movie audiences make plenty of sounds--made some myself over the years.  And not just laughter or a little yelp of surprise--and not just sounds: The tension in the theater showing The Exorcist was like a hand gripping my arm; people moaned, stumbled up the aisle, cried out and cried.  And one guy demanded to know What the hell? when Dave Bowman in 2001 ended up in the White Room.  And Nicholson made people laugh in all the wrong places in The Shining, like Stanley Milgram's torturers giggling, the poor fools thinking they had to flip the switch and send the volts into the "subject"--oh no, we're the subjects, we're the ones being watched, not watching.  There is a clipboard with our names on it, and the boxes keep getting checked.  We just do what we're told.

But what does Takashi Miike want us to do with Audition?  Walk out?--OK, sure thing, even though the last few minutes make walking the kind of joke they tell during coffee breaks in Hell.  Does he want us to accept moral uncertainty as the kind of knot cut only with a wire saw?  Are we supposed to eat this vomit to stay alive?  Must we hope it's all a dream?--and if it is, if it's all a dream, that's no comfort--because where can we go?  To what could we awake?

The sound we made during Audition was despair, the exhausted admission that we watched it and knew it was the picture Miike wanted us to see--and the one we wanted to finish.  But I never want to see it again.  If I do, all I can hope for is that I do so out of amnesia--and that I'll know to lurch forward in the sack he's bundled me into and get out, somehow.


  1. God knows you picked the scariest shot in the movie for your picture. There's just something primally frightening about that scene, even more so than sessions. Put me in the 'I'm a dream' camp; I think the film is far more compelling that way; more about the monsters in our own head than the monsters 'out there'. And a great portrait of how guilt/shame can effortlessly edge into paranoia/projection.

    1. *even more so than the torture sessions, that is.

  2. One of the "forbidden plots" creative writing teachers warn students against is the "it-was-all-a-dream" ploy; but for Audition I think an exception could be made—as we do for the Alice books (although Audition goes in, shall we say a different direction?).

    I like the idea of guilt--it was originally the tack I was going to take with this. But I can't ignore not merely the revulsion but the despair I think the picture engenders, the sense of irredeemable loss and cruelty. Again, though, it certainly can be seen as a savage examination of shame and paranoia. As Elvis sings, "We can't go on together with suspicious minds"!


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