One is never sure about a Lars Von Trier film as the auteur is able to deliver genius and self-indulgence (are they mutually exclusive?), sometimes in the same movie. This certainly applies to Von Trier’s latest opus – the psychological horror that is The House That Jack Built.
Matt Dillon plays the titular character and the story is very much told from his perspective. Presented as a dialogue between himself and Virgil – Jack’s spirit guide, so to speak – Jack recounts five critical (in his mind) incidents that mark his life as a serial killer.
As one might expect from Von Trier, this is not your typical slasher flick – and why should it be? Jack starts out as a banal, awkward almost reluctant murderer and develops into a cynical, arrogant and utterly evil psycho-killer, by the end.
In between these incidents, Jack often veers “off-topic” into long monologues about the state of humanity, which come across very surreal and halfway through one almost forgets what the movie is actually about.
Even the incidents themselves are fairly mundane affairs punctuated by visceral violence, with gore that reportedly sickened many at its Cannes premiere. Although between you and me, I have seen worse. Much worse.
Ultimately, The House That Jack Built is really about death – “the idea that life is evil and soulless” as Von Trier himself explains. Nihilistic without compromise, the movie offers a bleak perspective of the world and its inhabitants. Worth your time.
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