Audition: The Sound of Horror is Silence
Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri.
This is the sound of my nightmares. Not any real pain I’ve endured or a specific shocking scene from a horror movie: the sing-song call of a young woman bent on revengein a Japanee horror movie.
Audition is Takashi Miike’s nightmare about a widower trying to move on with his life. It is a film about misplaced expectations, regrets, and the folly of misogyny. Shigeharu Aoyama is not a bad man by nature. He resents his late wife’s passing and takes out his aggression on every woman he encounters. The doting husband at her sickbed died the moment her heart stopped beating.
Miike wants you to have a visceral reaction to Audition. The sound is very exaggerated. A knife hitting a plate is as loud as a door slamming shut in real life. Waves crashing on the shore have the impact of a tractor trailer blasting down the highway. The exaggerated ambient sound is foreboding. Voices are clear, but actions are literally louder than words.
By the time Aoyama holds a fake casting call to find a willing young replacement wife, Audition is unmistakably surreal. The sound and emotional responses to daily human interaction are otherworldly. A show stepping on thick carpeting at a hotel should not be so loud as to pull you out of your seat. Everyday stimuli are transformed into the basis of your worst nightmare.
Aoyama falls head over heels for a former ballerina named Ayami. She’s seems like a deep thinker and captivating in person. The problem is that nothing she claims to have done can be verified in real life. She is a living ghost, quiet in a world filled with overwhelming sound.
Never trust the quiet ones. Ayami’s silence makes her one of the more intimidating figures in modern horror. By the time you see her work in motion, you struggle to reconcile the docile intellectual with her savage actions.
Miike flips the expectations of horror in inventive ways with Audition. The scariest moments come from silence, not sound, yet the exaggerated sound creates a startling and unfamiliar world where you hope nothing worse can happen.
Thoughts on Audition? I rewatched it earlier today and was surprised by how much I had blocked from my memory. That one scene at the top of the post is perhaps the only one I remembered well. Share your thoughts below. Love to hear from you.