Takashi Miike is credited with seven or eight films in the year 2001, including the previously discussed The Happiness of the Katakuris. Family was the theme in that outing and it wound up being a vibrant and bizarre musical comedy. Family is also the theme of Visitor Q and it is again a tale of redemption, but run through some seriously twisted material.
This is a deranged motion picture from Miike and it may well be his most exaggerated and surreal piece of work, which is really saying something. Itemizing its various depravities is generally enough to put casual viewers off Visitor Q, but there’s definitely more to the film than its individual components. That said, it’s nearly impossible to describe Miike’s outing without potentially disturbing someone.
So, the movie opens with the prostitute Miki Yamazaki (Fujiko) with her father Kiyoshi (Kenichi Endo). He is a journalist doing a story on “young people” and they end up doing the deed, only he concludes too soon and is taunted as an “early bird.” Later, a man (Kazushi Watanabe) plunks Kiyoshi on the head with a rock – twice – and then follows him home.
And what a home it is. The mother, Keiko (Shungico Uchida), is routinely and severely beaten by her young son Takuya (Jun Mutō). Kiyoshi pays no attention and neither does the man. Keiko works as a prostitute as well, by the way, and shoots drugs to cope with the obvious rigours of her day-to-day life. Later, when the father sees his son being bullied, he gets the idea for another documentary.
Watanabe’s character is the titular Visitor Q, a man nobody really seems to know. His presence in the Yamazaki home is mysterious, to say the least. Takuya, toward the end of the movie, wonders if Visitor Q was sent to destroy the family. That’s probably the most rational course, given how self-destructive they seem on the surface.
Keiko is an earnest and tragic figure. A customer sympathizes with her after seeing her scars and asking her to beat him. The scene depicts a necessary purification, which further builds on Miike’s theme about the passage of violence. Takuya beats his mother because he is bullied at school. Keiko internalizes, barely able to obscure her limp and incapable of getting her husband’s attention.
Keiko’s maternal role is in upheaval until a critical moment that is better left undescribed. Needless to say, it culminates in a rather extravagant discharge of bodily fluids and leads down a rather joyous path to unity. Keiko’s responsibilities as a mother are explored through Miike’s amplifications, starting with her putting together a puzzle and guiding her to follow the pieces to greater understanding.
Dovetailing this is the father’s paternal instincts, which are considerably askew. He sees his children as opportunities, monstrously transfiguring them as sex objects and occupational opportunities. Rather than help his son contend with the bullies, he films the cruelty. Rather than help his daughter, he assists in what’s led her astray in the first place.
Kiyoshi’s moment of redemption is disturbing and darkly hilarious. Visitor Q videotapes the entire scenario, which ranges from a sexual assault and a murder to an ensuing scene of necrophilia. Keiko and Kiyoshi bond over this, finding unity and even happiness in the bloody chaos.
Miike’s Visitor Q was shot as the final part of the Love Cinema series, which is comprised of six digital entries designed for the straight-to-video market. It features a shoestring budget and was made in about a week, which helps give the material a certain sense of frenzied momentum as it carts from one scene to the next.
And from that momentum, Miike somehow pulls this crazy family full circle. There are no judgments of morality or emotion, no apologies or swelling sweeps of boring decency. No such luck. It ends perhaps as it should, with maternal ecstasy and paternal contentedness somehow wrapping itself together under a blue tarp.
Visitor Q isn’t for everyone. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it is a curiously straightforward one. When one considers the nature of Miike’s exaggerations and the way these elements weave together under the watchful but emotionless eye of the houseguest, it’s kind of extraordinary and even quaint in its suggestions of traditional morality under the fog of sickness. Imagine that.