Audition is billed as a cautionary tale of how a one night stand can evolve from sizzling to tragic.
This, however, does not even begin to give a real picture of what Matt Herron’s film is.
Those looking for a straight-laced film about love and lust will likely be left scratching their heads as Audition – which celebrated its international première on Sunday as part of the Manchester Film Festival – is no normal narrative.
Using behind the scenes-style footage – a territory usually reserved for a film’s special features section – Audition shows a compilation of 100 hopeful actors trying to claim one of the two lead roles.
HYBRID: Audition combines scripted performance with documentary-style footage
The film interweaves this with scripted narrative as the director slowly whittles down the auditionees to one male and one female for the film’s finale.
Shot across just seven days but 15 years in the making, Audition is Matt’s audacious experiment into film, love and life itself.
Matt told MM: “It’s definitely an experiment but with a predetermined emotional journey aimed to challenge the idea of how true, true feelings are.
“What are they? Can we control them? Why do they come and go?
“The film allows a scripted reality to play out in a real-life reality so we can look at these feelings, in this case love, from different perspectives and from different people all at once.
“Ultimately, it’s a hybrid of all three, an entertaining experiment containing documentary and narrative structures.”
Matt is an eternal, ghostly presence in the film, saying little, yet his omnipotent presence hangs over the set at all times.
The actors are at the mercy of his grand experiment, playing out his will, not unlike mice in a laboratory maze.
“I was looking for people who understood the characters and authentically played them,” he said.
“Like most auditions it’s not always about who is the best actor, but more of who is best for the part.
“When I first wrote the screenplay the characters had even less visible traits.
“They were, however, based on particular personalities, so the dialogue hinted towards those people.
“But the dialogue is also purposefully cliché and generic so it didn’t spell them out.
“I wanted the actors to bring life to them with their interpretation of who these characters were.”
— matt herron (@milesperhour_) 4 March 2016
Matt made time during pre-production to rehearse with the 100 actors individually – perhaps why the project took 15 years to complete.
Once filming began, the process sped up dramatically with actors ploughing through 33 pages of the script in just 15 hours.
The first five scenes of act one were completed in one take – a feat that Matt credits to the thorough pre-production.
This efficiency coupled with the shrinking cast numbers allowed him to spend more time with the remaining actors and eased the filmmaking process, making it, in his view, a more enjoyable experience.
He pointed out, however, that some actors didn’t like the idea of their off-camera selves being exposed.
This is one of the film’s key themes – the distinction, or lack of, between what happens in front of a lens and what happens behind it.
The film prides itself on blurring the lines of reality.
As the film progresses the transitions from reality to narrative become slicker and less pronounced, allowing fact and fiction to spill into each other.
This peaks towards the end when the patience of the final two auditionees, who are showing clear signs of fatigue after a week of intense filming, begins to fray, mirroring the violently disintegrating relationship of the story’s protagonists.
When the finale’s female lead begins to complain about safety concerns during fight scenes, the distinction between what is real and what is an act breaks down, leading to discomfort on the part of the audience.
Matt, however, says that safety precautions were always taken.
“The fight scenes were choreographed with a stunt coordinator and protection was available such as knee pads, back support, etc,” he said.
“The fear was about that fine line between an intense performance and reality colliding.”
There are certainly times when Matt Herron appears to be more mad scientist than filmmaker and this is arguably the films greatest achievement – challenging the viewer’s conception of what constitutes a film.
The narrative scenes, possibly by design, aren’t the most convincing and the acting is at times weak, but ultimately that seems to be the point.
Audition isn’t to be watched for its narrative, but for its fascinating concept.
It is sure to divide opinion.
However the overwhelming impression is that this is exactly what the director intends.
To lfind out more about the film, click here.
Images courtesy of Matt Herron, via YouTube, with thanks