Visitor Q (Bizita Q in its native Japan) is a 2001 film by the increasingly infamous Miike Takashi. The film was the sixth and final part of CineRocket's Love Cinema series, a run of titles shot on digital video and aimed at the video market. Written by regular Miike collaborator Itaru Era, it is at heart a rather touching examination of the family; but to extend the anatomical analogy, exposing the heart is a somewhat grisly experience that is arguably not for the faint of heart.

The transgression begins with the very first frame, which displays a line of text: "Have you ever done it with your dad?". A television reporter is videotaping an interview with his daughter, who works as a prostitute. In the course of the interview (which is partially presented through the producer's camera footage), they have sex, but the daughter mocks her father for his small penis and premature ejaculation. Humiliated and ashamed, he leaves, unable even to pay her fee in full. Walking home, a stranger cracks him on the head with a rock, and then pretends to come to the rescue. The producer invites the stranger home.

At home are mother and son. The son is heavily bullied by his classmates and, unable to challenge them, resorts to beating his mother. The mother accepts these violent beatings, which the father and visitor observe without comment, as she goes about her household duties. We soon discover that she copes with the aid of a heroin habit, which she finances through prostitution of her own.

The family is utterly, hysterically dysfunctional. In previous films, Miike often portrays the destruction of social units, be they families (in Fudoh: The New Generation (1996)) or criminal gangs (in The City of Lost Souls (2000), among others). But in Visitor Q the family is hopelessly broken from the very start, and gradually rebuilt in the director's inimitable fashion.

The father meets with an presenter from his station and pitches a new idea; a reality TV exploration of his son's bullying ordeal. She rejects the idea and reminds him of his last project - an investigation into gang violence that ended with him inadvertently taping gang members sodomizing him with his microphone. Failure follows failure for this inefficient breadwinner, but he resolves to continue his project independently.

The rebuilding of the family unit begins next, with the mother. After selling herself to make money for a drug deal, she returns home and finds that the visitor has laid a trail of jigsaw pieces (a motif from earlier in the film - the mother's hobby) leading to her estranged daughter's room. The visitor waits for her there, and they appear to be about to have sex. Instead, the visitor massages the mother's breasts until she begins to lactate. Before long, the room (and in particular a photo of her daughter) is covered is soaked by an almost volcanic eruption of milk, in which fetishism is transcended through sheer scale. The mother is ecstatic at this reawakening of her maternal nature as her son watches, unseen, from the doorway.

That night, the mother serves dinner in a confident and happy fashion - she is no longer struggling blindly to perform a mere role or duty. When her son, jealous of her intimacy with the visitor, throws tea at her, she responds by throwing a knife back at him; she will no longer be his victim. The scene ends as the son's bullies bombard the house with fireworks, which the father enthusiastically films. Crucially, he questions how he should feel about the attack. He is moving beyond the role of dispassionate observer. His awakening comes next, but it does not come easily.

The father enlists the help of the visitor and the TV presenter to begin his project on bullying. They film the bullies as they tie up his son and urinate on him. The father's plan is to intervene and have the presenter interview father and son together. When the presenter again walks away in disgust, the father chases her and attempts to rape her, making references to his daughter's mockery of his sexual adequacy. In his rage, he accidentally strangles the presenter to death. The visitor helps him move the body back to his home (while filming throughout).

Back home, the father begins to mark the corpse for dismemberment and sends the visitor inside to fetch binbags. The visitor finds the mother, who, coincidentally, is wearing a binbag; she has been learning to trigger her lactation herself, and gives a ludicrously gushing demonstration. Meanwhile, out in the greenhouse with the corpse, the father finds himself sexually aroused, and begins to have sex with it, commenting that he hasn't felt such desire since the birth of his children. What he feels is his sexual urges unrepressed for the first time in years, in direct contrast to the heavily repressed feelings that informed his guilt-laden encounter with his daughter at the start of the movie.

But the father's transformation is not yet complete; his desire is still misplaced, to say the least. In the course of his necrophilia (during which he defeats his premature ejaculation), he believes the corpse is responding physically and has become wet, but when he raises a hand he realises the dead woman's bowels are evacuating, covering him in shit. At the same time, her vagina contracts, trapping them in flagrante. Having little other recourse - and with his achievements (awakened desire, the conquest of premature ejaculation, and the corpse's supposed sexual response) in ruins - he calls to his wife and the visitor for help.

The father and still-attached corpse are placed in bathtub of vinegar in an attempt to separate them, but when this fails the mother has a better idea. She injects her husband with her last dose of heroin - which she no longer has any need for. This works like a charm; the father is freed and, at the same time, reconciled with his wife; solving his unfortunate problem has brought them together for the first time in years.

This new-found togetherness expresses itself as the son's bullies attack him in the garden. His parents run out together and brutally, gleefully slaughter his tormentors in a celebratory bloodbath, even working together afterwards to dispose of the bodies. The visitor, meanwhile, returns to the house, where he finds the newly liberated son wallowing face-down on the kitchen floor, which is awash with his mother's breast milk and sexual fluids from her earlier demonstration of her powers. The son comments that he thought the visitor had arrived to destroy the family, but now resolves to dedicate himself to his studies.

The visitor leaves for the city, where he encounters the last piece of the puzzle, the daughter. When she propositions the visitor, he smiles and picks up a large rock; we next see the daughter entering he family home with a cut and bruised face. The visitor is not mentioned again; his (assumed) beating of the daughter is his final act of kindness to the family. Some commentators refer to the visitor an an angel, and while this is never alluded to in the film (his actions are at best amoral), it's an interesting interpretation. The visitor is central to the film, clearly - it's named after him - but his character and motivation are never touched upon. He's undeniably a catalyst for the family's salvation, but little more - one could even make a plausible argument for him being a figment of the family's collective imagination, a manifestation of their subconscious desire to heal. There's no suggestion of this either, of course; judge for yourself.

In the final scenes of the film the daughter moves through the family home, pausing for a while in her old room, and eventually discovers her parents in the greenhouse. Her father is suckling peacefully at her mother's breast. The mother smiles and draws her daughter to her other breast, and the film ends with this admittedly unorthodox but nonetheless heartwarming tableau of familial bliss.

Not, then, for everyone - the hostile critic might well describe the film as a catalogue of fetishism and perversion, and Visitor Q does approach its transgressive elements head-on, as the experienced Miike viewer would expect. But thematically, the film is practically Disney fare; a threatened and divided family unit is reconciled. Visitor Q's family are divided in a rather extreme way; it follows that the details of their reconciliation will be similarly extreme. Comical exaggeration (very darkly comical, admittedly) permeates the film throughout, but the audience is never allowed to settle on comedy as its central approach. The son's borderline-slapstick beating of his mother (who is often launched through screen walls) is balanced by the horrific scars we are later shown on her body, while the straight-for-laughs scatological humour of the father's predicament with the corpse comes shortly after his harrowing murder of the TV presenter. This is a typical Miike tactic that complements the objective presentation of events, leaving the audience bereft of moral guidance; like the father as he videos his son's bullies, they must ask themselves how they feel about what they're seeing.

The audience is reminded of its role, and its own existence, through Miike's directorial style. Numerous scenes are presented through video camera footage - the only interaction the father has with his son through most of the film - and the fourth wall is often broken by comments to the camera. Captions introduce several segments, and address the audience directly: "Did you ever do it with your dad?", "Did you ever hit your mom?", and so on. In addition, the shot composition itself regularly places the viewer in the role of voyeur. The camera peers around corners and lingers in hallways, half-capturing events in the next room. Precious little is presented directly, and nothing is judged.

Why watch Visitor Q? It's essential viewing for those interested in transgressive or extreme cinema - it's hard to imagine a commercially released title that can match it in this regard, although most contenders would also bear Miike Takashi's name. But it's more than an exercise in shock; it can be seen as a touching celebration of faimly life, and anyone who's been a member of a family and can tolerate the film's excesses should be able to appreciate this. The trials the family face are certainly amplified to a previously unimaginable degree, but amplification is nothing without a source. Visitor Q's source can be found in the myriad incompatibilities, compromises and paradoxes of family living, in a society that increasingly threatens to alienate the family's core component: the individual. An astonishing film, in every sense.

Visitor Q is available on DVD in Japanese, German and American editions. In the UK, it has somewhat surprisingly been shown on The Sci-Fi Channel; late at night, naturally.

Further reading:

  • Mes, Tom. Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike. Godalming: Fab Press, 2003