Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Vomiting that Protects Me: Abjection and the Uncanny in Audition

It's clear from the first ten minutes of the film that Audition was about family and home. The film starts off with the death of Aoyama's wife. He is left to raise his little son, who after 7 years urges him to start dating and find a new wife. Several innocuous comments are made about how nice it would be to have a woman around the house to cook (even though they already have a maid) and to take care of them. It was this moment that I knew horrible things would happen in the domestic space, and I was not surprised when at the end of the film Asami shows up at the house to perform her womanly duties.

The German word for "uncanny" is unheimlich which literally means "un-homely" and this definition has always struck me. He talks about the uncanny as something that is familiar, but has been repressed or rejected, and then returns to the surface in some way. It's home, it's familiar, but it's also other.  Perhaps Kristeva argues that the abject is not the uncanny, but I would say that the uncanny often occurs as a result of coming face to face with the abject. Kristeva also argues that the abject is not familiar, it is wholly other: that shit is not me, that corpse is not me. And yet, it must be familiar to some degree because it is recognizable, and no matter how other we make it, it remains us. The corpse is not me, but I will become a corpse. That shit is not me, but it comes from my body. Therefore, the uncanny, the un-homely, may occur when we are faced with something wholly other that is at some level familiar.

The most obvious instance of this in Audition is when Asami maintains a very careful and considerate motherly relationship to those she is torturing. This is uncanny. She is un/familiar, un/homely. And she maintains this uncanniness through abjection. The most jarring scene that shows this is when she feeds her tied up "pet", the man she keeps in a sack, by vomiting into a bowl, which he then laps up like a dog. On one hand this is pure abjection. The vomit is wholly other from Asami, and yet it is then consumed by an other, who is at one instance wholly other and at another is being cared for and kept alive by consuming what was once inside of Asami. Her un/homely and un/domestic care is rendered both uncanny and abject.  If the uncanny is something that has been repressed which then resurfaces in some way, perhaps this moment also reveals to the audience the repressed memories of relying on the mother's bodily fluids for sustenance, and reminds us of our desire to differentiate ourselves in order to maintain our independent subjectivity. As Kristeva argues, "Along with sight-clouding dizziness, nausea makes be balk at that milk cream, separates me from the mother and father who proffer it." We reject the mother's milk (and Asami's milk), and leave the film purged of the abject and more fully human.

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