Creating different moods at one and the same time, or shifting gear altogether, requires clever, considered screenwriting. A good example of the first is the ear-removing scene in "Reservoir Dogs" (which manages to both shock and amuse); a bad example of the latter is when the recent "The Invisible Circus" switches from being a portrait of hippie activism and antics to a mystery thriller.
Sadly, "Audition" makes the mistake of changing crudely from a study in loneliness through a couple edging nervously towards a relationship (it accumulates its power from a wealth of telling detail) to a full-blown shock-horror extravaganza. This involves cruelty, torture and twisted pleasure as a young woman wreaks vengeance on all men, taking it out on one particular poor sap.
Aside from the fact that the young girl is unsettled, enigmatic, and starved of love, there's absolutely nothing in her character to indicate that she has an unhealthy appetite for inflicting mutilation and pain. It would be like Julie Andrews pulling a machine-gun from her guitar-case and annihilating the von Trapp family in the final scene of "The Sound of Music".
What a shame, because for two-thirds of its life this Japanese film has been a credible, resonant look at the insecurity of individuals, at the need for love, especially in those (in this case a middle-aged man with his own video production company) who seem to have everything. Through set-ups which often have a lot of visual distinctiveness, low-key observation is the order of the day. If you want to avoid the full-tilt gruesomeness, just start staring at the carpet the moment the girl leaves the bedroom.
Japanese language with English subtitles.
Read an interview with the director of "Audition" Takashi Miike.