Of all the works of literature that have been adapted for film, and then re-adapted, Audition is perhaps the most unlikely candidate. Not because the 1997 novel by Ryu Murakami isn’t worthy of adapting, and not because Takashi Miike’s 1999 film version isn’t engaging – but because both tellings of the horrifying tale are so specific to their time.
That doesn’t seem to prevent producer Mario Kassar (Terminator, Rambo, Basic Instinct) from putting together an update, however. This new version will return to the source novel, but move the setting from Japan to the US. With Richard Gray (The Lookalike) attached to write and direct, the story looks set to remain broadly faithful to the action of the book. In it, a widower agrees to his filmmaker friend arranging fake auditions to find the bereaved man a new girlfriend, as part of a ‘reality’ project. When the widower falls for a former ballerina with a mysterious past, however, things begin to go terribly, painfully wrong.
First appearing in the late 1990s, Audition harnessed the new, growing power of the internet to become something of a cult sensation. Never achieving great box office success, the film adaptation was popular on the festival circuit – coming at a time when ‘reality TV’ was gaining a strong foothold in social consciousness around the world, along with Japanese horror films. These elements combined to thrust the story right into the heart of the zeitgeist.
Are those elements still effective, or indeed even relevant, anymore? Truly, we disappeared down the ‘reality TV’ rabbit-hole some time ago, with those types of programming greatly outnumbering original, narrative fiction these days. Likewise, the short, sharp, sudden spike in western popularity of Japanese horror films seems to have abated somewhat – itself bludgeoned to death by Hollywood’s insistence on re-making anything remotely interesting that comes from anywhere else.
In order to succeed, this western update will need to alter more than its setting. It will need to align itself with the current trends of society – perhaps skewering our obsession with reality programming, rather than warning against the dangers of it. That ship sailed a long time ago. Either way, all will be revealed as the remake of Audition heads into production this fall.