Japanese director Takashi Miike has never been one to shy away from the controversial in his filmmaking, (his film Audition is frequently cited as one of the most shocking films of all time), and Visitor Q is a perfect example of just how far he is prepared to push the boundaries. While some might say Visitor Q is a blatant attempt to shock I believe the film goes much further than that, giving an intelligent, albeit depraved look at a dysfunctional family living in Japan, while examining the family dynamic in technicolour vileness. Here lies Takashi’s directorial genius because it is a way in which he presents us with these characters that actually draws us into their plight. The film does not scrimp on controversial themes either covering incest, prostitution, bullying, rape, necrophilia, drug abuse, all topped off with some scenes of actual lactation (Takashi sourced actress Shungico Uchida on her ability to lactate). But despite all of this the film carries a stark message about family, and how they need each other.
Stylised as a documentary/ reality type format, and shot entirely on digital video, the opening scenes are prehaps the most difficult to watch as it starts with a father (played by Kenichi Endo) and daughter (Fujiko) in a hotel room, we discover the daughter is having to prostitute herself, and the father is willing to pay for her services. Thus sets the scene for this gritty little portrayal of a family in crisis. The following scene we meet Visitor Q, the mysterious stranger who is taken into the family home after hitting the father on the head with a rock for no apparent reason. As the movie progresses we discover the father is some sort of tv presenter who is making a documentary on the ‘youth of today’, he is failing though and has serious issues due to previous events which are recounted as the story unfolds. He also lacks any control as head of the family and is portrayed as somewhat emasculated. The son (Jun Muto) is being bullied and abused by his peers at school, who make violent attacks on the family home, which in turns leads him to violently bully his own mother. The mother seems the weakest of the characters, the most tragic, who unable to cope with her own miserable existence, turns to drugs and prostitution, although it is her strength which ultimately brings the family closer together. Finally we have the daughter, introduced in the opening scene and estranged from the family home. Key to the movie is the dynamic between these characters, how their behaviour has consequences for each other, how they individually interact with Visitor Q, (Kazushi Watanabe) and what develops as a result.
Throughout all of this Takashi presents the story with elements of black comedy making you laugh out loud at things you may question later should you be laughing at? There are some serious scenes of depravity in this film, so a strong stomach is compulsory if you are going to make it through to the end, but it is well worth it. Despite all the controversy surrounding this film it carries a strong message about the power of family, is intelligently played out and very thought provoking.
So not horror, although horrific in content, but a worthwhile watch all the same if you can stomach it.
Watch the trailer here: