Visitor Q (Bijitâ Q, 2001) is director Takashi Miike’s contribution to the Love Cinema series, which is made up of six ultra-low budget straight-to-video releases by independent filmmakers. They were made as an experimental project that explored Digital Video, in order to highlight the medium’s benefits for filmmakers in being cost effective and easy to use – low-lighting conditions, more mobility, etc. This is the last entry of the project.
Itaru Era’s screenplay tells a strange story about the destruction and eventual warped healing of an eccentric, already dysfunctional, and sexually perverse family, due to the intervention of a mysterious visitor in their home. It is shot in a documentary/home movie style that compensates the more disturbing aspects. The Medium places an emphasis on realism that these scenes strive for,making them all the more harrowing and effective for it. Yet Miike still manages to maintain his trademark bizarre and black as coal humour throughout; thanks in no small part to the pitch perfect timing of Era’s script, and the insane comical performances of the talented cast. The story walks a very fine line between amusement and disgust.
The film opens with a question written in Japanese script against a black background. Translated in the English subtitle it reads, “Have you ever done it with your dad?” Fading in, the prolonged opening scene depicts the young female prostitute Miki (Fujiko), trying to do just that, as she tries to persuade her father Kiyoshi (Ken’ichi Endô) to have sex with her for a price. It is soon revealed that television reporter, Kiyoshi, is filming the act in his daughter’s apartment for his latest project about youths of modern day Japan. He gives in to his runaway daughter’s persuasion, eventually surrendering to his lust for incest. They have sex, and Kiyoshi finishes after only a short time. He then realizes that the camera has been on the whole time.
The title of the next scene is another question – “Have you ever been hit on the head?” Kiyoshi is sitting in the waiting room of a train station on his way home, watching a happy family walk past on the opposite platform. From the window behind him, a stranger (Kazushi Watanabe) attacks him for seemingly no apparent reason. In the attack Kiyoshi is hit over the head with a huge stone. The title card then comes up, identifying the character is the “Visitor Q” of the film’s title (credited here simply as “The Visitor”).
Next scene and another question – “Have you ever hit your mom?” Shortly after we are introduced to the subject of domestic violence in Kiyoshi’s home. As wife Keiko (Shungiku Uchida) is working on a jigsaw puzzle, we can see red marks on her hands. She is then beaten by their son Takuya (Jun Mutô), using a rug beating stick. Soon after, bullies from Takuya’s school attack him by shooting fireworks through his bedroom window. We then see Keiko go to her bedroom, and taking off the top half of her clothes, it is clear that her body is covered in marks from the attack from her son. The scars the woman bears indicate the abuse has been going on for some time. She then cooks up some heroin, and injects herself with it. Not having a huge effect on her, this tells us that it is an ongoing addiction. It is revealed later that she sells herself, which is why she pleads with her son not to touch her face when he beats her.
Walking back to his house that night with bandages on his head, Kiyoshi is attacked again by the mysterious stranger, again hitting him over the head with a huge stone from behind. The film then cuts to the family home where Kiyoshi and The Visitor are eating together. Kiyoshi announces that their guest will be staying for a while. As Takuya is about to beat his mother again, they do not intervene, and The Visitor even says not to mind him. He continues eating while he watches a news report on television. Kiyoshi goes to bed.
The anchorwoman seen on the news report The Visitor is watching is Asako (Shôko Nakahara), who plays a role in Kiyoshi’s woes. She is his co-worker and former mistress who has broken off their affair after he was involved in a scandal. The cameraman was still filming as Kiyoshi was humiliated at the hands of a gang of young hoodlums, which was aired publicly. He was trying to interview the gang for his project on youths, and Asako believes he is taking his work too far. On his way to work the next day, Kiyoshi sees his son Takuya being bullied by the fireworks attackers, and it gives him another idea for a project.
It is after Kiyoshi commits the sin of incest with his daughter that The Visitor appears, just as Kiyoshi looks on at a happy family in the “Have you ever been hit on the head?” scene. Knocking out Kiyoshi was The Visitor’s way of infiltrating his home. It is applied in a later scene, in which Kiyoshi meets Asako to discuss his latest idea for a project about his bullied son, that he invited The Visitor into his home thinking he somehow helped him, unaware the man was his attacker. The Visitor represents a wake-up call for the family, literally knocking some sense into the. The aforementioned Jigsaw puzzle Keiko was working on, also plays a part in foreshadowing her daughter’s return, symbolizing a piecing together again of the family.
There is the father/husband having an affair with a younger woman. The son is being bullied and taking his frustrations out on his mother, which pushes her to drug addiction to cope with her miserable existence. While the daughter has run away from home. The problems are not uncommon, but what becomes of note is the way they are solved: with four murders, necrophilia, and sexual fulfillment through lactating. The latter of which serves as the catalyst for the mother’s to realize her matriarch role in the family, leading to the emotionally beautiful final scene, which symbolizes the family is healed. The Visitor leaves when his work is done, as the daughter Miki returns home. Her head is bleeding after the knock on her head from The Visitor, but these injuries immediately disappear when the family are brought together again. The film ends on the note that everything it going to be just fine for them. They may have become demented perverts, but they are demented perverts who are at harmony with each other. The family now accepts its own dysfunctions, and can communicate and love each other once again.
While his father and mother think nothing of The Visitor – never questioning why he is there, and what he is doing – their son is the one that suspects. Takuya is the only family member who decides a life of normality, returning to his studies to achieve something in life, so he is able to get away from his family and out into the world on his own. He does not take part in the final symbolic scene of a family as one again.
As shocking as this material may be, the film never once comes across as exploitative. This is art house cinema, and it serves as a sub-textual commentary that plays out as a satire on modern day Japan’s family values, and the sexual repression in its culture that has given birth to some of the most far out weirdo pornography in the world. With stinging attacks on sensationalized media to boot, Visitor Q is some of Takashi Miike’s most thoughtful, poetic, and provocative work.