Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki
Director: Takashi Miike
Five years after a man, Aoyama, loses his wife, his teenage son urges him to get back into the dating game. When he doesn’t know where to start, his friend, a film producer, recommends he hold auditions for a fake movie, and he is immediately drawn to one of the applicants, Asami, whose tragic story he relates to. While at first, she seems innocent and pliable, Asami is not at all what she seems.
This film is initially fairly innocent in tone, like a drama, but there’s something so entitled about Aoyama and a bit sinister about his producer friend. They carry on their audition process as though none of the women have feelings or might get hurt, or even that the women might not be interested in them. It’s pretty awful.
Whilst thoughts about the #metoo movement will spring to mind, hold on for a moment. Becuase Asami is not an innocent victim here. As we start to know more about her past, we realise that something is very wrong. And the final third of this film turns the tables as Asami captures her man in his home, paralyses him, and takes her revenge. Slowly. With these long pins.
This was the film that launched the “torture porn” genre of films and inspired directors like Eli Roth to make films like Hostel, which in fact has a scene which stars the director of this film. What I liked about this film is how startling it is. It starts to get a bit surreal in the middle third, but it never loses it’s way. While the final third is so different to the first, it doesn’t feel like it doesn’t belong, and the way that Aoyama is sort of not a bad guy adds a layer of meaning. He shouldn’t have auditioned women the way he did, but he certainly doesn’t deserve what happens to him.
While some have argued that this film is feminist in nature, others say it’s misogynistic. You could look at it either way, but I think that that’s beside the point. I found this film incredibly hard to watch, and had my eyes covered for the last part of the film. It’s incredibly dark, brutal, scary and grotesque. It’s a film that ends in an extended torture scene. It’s not for everyone. But there is a lot to be said for the masterful direction, script, performances and mis en scene.
See It If: this one if for those of you with iron stomaches. I didn’t enjoy it because of the brutal ending, but there’s great elements of this film.