New Age Nasty: Visitor Q (2001)

Visitor Q is another one of Takashi Miike’s most controversial affairs. It was originally the final part of a six part series of Straight-To-Video films called the Love Cinema collection – a collection of six low budget, independent movies made in Japan – and it was also the most successful out of all six movies which is most likely due to Takashi Miike’s already rising reputation in both the east and the west at the time of its release. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of the other 5 movies of the Love Cinema collection as they were never released in the west, and any release of Visitor Q in the west does not contain any link to the Love Cinema collection whatsoever, so I can’t compare Visitor Q to any of the other movies in order to see if they share any similar themes or explicit content. There’s also little to no information about the making of this movie that exists anywhere on the internet or otherwise. However, with all that being said, Visitor Q definitely stands out in Takashi Miike’s library of films as being possibly the most unrestrained and perverted film he has created to date.

Despite Japanese censoring laws meaning that Takashi Miike had to blur out any genitalia shots, Visitor Q blurs the line between drama, comedy and pornography more-so than any other film that wasn’t just straight up pornography what with the film’s unbridled explicit content and very ‘fetishistic’ themes. From what I can gather about the film’s deranged and maniacal story, Visitor Q is a black comedy about new experiences, and the changing lives of unhappy people because of these new experiences. The story revolves around an abused and unhappy family – a failed journalist father, a bullied son, a prostitute daughter and a beaten and drug addicted mother – whose life is turned around when a strange visitor introduces himself. Through perverted and violent means, the visitor allows the family to open up with each other and change their lives and relationship together for the better. Whilst I feel that I have seen similar stories before, some even say that it shares a very close similarity to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorama (1968), Visitor Q is interesting because of its shocking content and bizarre sensibility. It is an uncomfortable watch to be sure with its extreme depictions and incredibly vulnerable characters, but the film’s message about new experiences leading to new found lives is quite poignant in my opinion, and it’s incredibly clear that that is the whole message behind the film. However, where Visitor Q stands out is the film’s controversial stance that there is no better act to push people out of their comfort zones, embrace acceptance and embody motivation, than a taboo act; acts such as lactation fetish, necrophilia and murder. However, despite the many taboos that the film indulges in, the film’s story makes a valid and sensible point behind all of its explicit content, a point about breaking out of comfort zones and becoming a new person because of it.

Visitor Q is a film about characters first and foremost. It focuses on character arcs and in-depth character studies more so than an exciting, divulging plot or scenes of intense action. The characters represented in this film are vulnerable, sympathetic and wholly grounded in reality. The lives they live aren’t too far out of the ordinary, and each character is fleshed out and fully represented in the way they act, talk, and act towards one another. For example: the father is neurotic, shy and very insecure, which is clearly evident from the first scene onwards, but when he gets beaten over the head by the visitor, his demeanor slowly changes. He becomes more confident, more expressive, he starts to focus on what he wants which, in all honesty, is quite horrifying in nature, but his positive change in attitude is the focus beneath the gratuity. The same goes for the other members of the family and their character arcs. What is strange, however, is the fact that the only character who doesn’t experience an arc like the others is the titular visitor. However, his character is still fleshed out despite this: a hedonistic playboy with complete disregard for social norms and his impact on the family is far more important than the character himself. All in all, Visitor Q is a clear example of how character is incredibly important to Takashi Miike’s stories. Throughout his films that I’ve seen so far, its clear that Takashi Miike focuses more on character development than action/horror set-pieces, and Visitor Q is a prime example of this.

Behind these characters, however, are some fantastic performances by the whole cast. Kenichi Endo and Shungicu Uchida, the father and mother respectably, are amazing in their roles. The emotional ranges that the characters express throughout the movie are incredibly vast and dimensional, yet both of these actors do a fantastic job of not only keeping up with the story and character drama, but also adding a clear touch of maniacal personality into their performances. At times, their performances are deranged and volatile, but their performances always fit perfectly with the characters that they’re portraying. In fact, the cast as a whole do a great and, at times, very brave job portraying their roles with the only exception being Kazushi Watanabe as the visitor, but I feel that’s only because the character he portrays is purposely static whereas the other characters are incredibly dynamic, in order to make the visitor stand out against the main characters of the film.

In terms of the film’s technical aspect, Visitor Q is very clearly a low budget endeavor. The look of the film is far different to other Takashi Miike films. Firstly, the camera work is incredibly cheap with some shots replicating home movie and documentary footage, and others replicating the style of incredibly low budget, amateur films. Lighting is almost entirely natural in comparison to Takashi Miike’s more favored intense, colored lighting effects featured in movies such as Audition, Gozu or Ichi the Killer. However, behind this amateurish style is a heavy amount of professional ability: the film is edited incredibly well with a pace that flows steadily throughout the entirety of the movie, each shot, despite it’s amateurish look, is cleverly crafted with creative angles and balance within the mis-en-scene. All in all, the deceivingly amateurish aesthetic of Visitor Q is definitely part of its charm, and it definitely helps the movie stand out amongst Takashi Miike’s large back-catalogue of movies.

Personally, I find Visitor Q an uncomfortable watch, but there’s definitely a sensible message to understand underneath it all. It’s one of Takashi Miike’s more intelligent movies masquerading as a low budget, gratuitous shock comedy, and that’s also a reason why it’s definitely one of Takashi Miike’s more famous works. Visitor Q is a film that’s hard to explain to a potential viewer, but due to its intelligent thematic content it’s definitely charming and memorable. However, I’d definitely say that Visitor Q is a niche recommendation due to its shocking content. It’s definitely not an easy watch, but I would definitely call it rewarding to a viewer if they do decide to sit down and witness its madness for themselves.

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