Visitor Q (2001) is Takashi Miike’s darkly humorous commentary on reality television and the state of the family. It is also his most experimental film by pushing boundaries well beyond what is considered socially and cinematically decent. Miike presents us with the single most screwed up family ever to be represented on film. In true carnivalesque fashion, Visitor Q turns the traditional family and it’s roles upside down, ripping apart values and breaking taboos to eventually free the characters from their fears and failures; but not in the way you’d expect. From beginning to end the depravities committed by these characters are so over the top, viewers gifted with a strong stomach and a warped sense of humor may find themselves laughing while wondering what could possibly be next.
The film begins where most dysfunctional family storylines end; the Yamazaki family is already a mess when we come into the film. As a father, Kiyoshi (Kenichi Endo) merely pretends to head the household, choosing instead to spend his time shooting a documentary about young people in Japan. When the teenage prostitute he visits as part of his investigation turns out to be his daughter, Miki (Fujiko), he willingly has sex with her. His son, Takuya, returns home after being bullied at school to berate and beat his mother (Shungicu Uchida) Keiko, who is a heroin addict that turns tricks to support her habit. Interestingly, traditional family roles remain intact throughout the film but the characters fail completely in them. This weak, ineffectual father, insecure son, self-loathing mother, and promiscuous daughter lack power over their own lives. Rather than deal with that, they escape through deviant behavior until a mysterious visitor hits Kiyoshi on the head with a rock, initiating change. Like a perverse Mary Poppins, the Visitor (Kazushi Watanabe) appears out of nowhere and leaves when the family is reunited at the film’s end. He is a catalyst for self-discovery and repair. This is not to say their activities are any less depraved; they even more disgusting, but the point is the Yamazakis are a happy and fully engaged family again. It is endearing in an odd, repulsive way. Miike means this to be a happy ending.
Visitor Q was shot as part of the Love Cinema series, six low budget films released straight to video after a brief cinematic run in Tokyo. Miike, a pro at exploiting the limitations of low budget filming, uses a documentary style reminiscent of techniques used in reality TV. This home-video look contradicts the film’s absurdist elements while heightening its voyeuristic qualities in a way that ratchets up the tension. Bullying is a theme in Visitor Q and as a director that insists on viewer involvement, Miike bullies the audience with a non-stop parade of sexual debaucheries, bodily fluids, and other unpleasantries. There is a certain amount of glee in this excessiveness. Acts are so extreme it becomes funny. Miike recognizes that without humor as a way to bring viewers along willingly, the film would fail. Equally effective is the outstanding ability of the cast to somehow invoke sympathetic feelings in the audience. Through these fine performances viewers a feel a wave of satisfaction at the movie’s end, in spite of it’s bizarre outcome.
As an avant-garde experimental film, Visitor Q questions what is acceptable cinematically as well as to individual viewers. It hacks away societal taboos by presenting the most perverse acts, constantly challenging the viewers’ sense of propriety. Because of the highly offensive nature of most of this film’s scenes, this is a difficult movie to watch alone and is best viewed with others.