Outrage inevitable: Even with his latest film THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT Scandal director Lars von Trier divides opinion – and actually turns out to be just a very lovable troll. We reveal more about this in our review of this unconventional comedy.
The Plot Summary
USA in the 1970s. We follow the highly intelligent Jack (Matt Dillon) over a period of twelve years and witness five exemplary murders that shape his development into a serial killer. We experience the events from Jack’s perspective. He sees each of the murders as an independent work of art. What no one knows is that Jack suffers from neuroses that cause him great difficulty in the outside world. Although the final and inevitable police operation is inevitably approaching, which on the one hand even provokes Jack, but on the other hand also puts him under great psychological pressure, he is determined to take ever greater risks. The goal is the ultimate work of art: a collection of all his murders, manifested in a house he built himself. Jack repeatedly discusses his problems and thoughts with a mysterious interlocutor named Verge (Bruno Ganz). These conversations are also idiosyncratic reflections on various areas of cultural and art history, on the one hand demanding, but on the other hand attempts by Jack to justify his actions.
Movie explanation of the ending
For several years now, social media has made it particularly clear that prestigious film festivals like Cannes or Berlin tend to bring out particularly dramatic reactions. This was also the case at the beginning of this year, when the former Persona Non Grata Lars von Trier presented his latest film “The House That Jack Built” on the Côte d’Azur – of course not without an impressive warning of violence on the tickets. Afterwards, the spectators and journalists present there were downright outraged and flooded the Twitter news service with their outrage about the excessive depiction of violence in Von Trier’s film, about his treatment of female characters and the presumption of calling all of this art. Even after one of the press screenings in Hamburg, the shock of what had just been shown was sometimes so great that people would like to revoke the director’s license to direct – anyone who films something so sick must inevitably be sick themselves. This is of course the clumsiest form of argument, even if it addresses at least one interesting aspect: it’s about the separation of work and creator. This should usually be a given (including in the case of “The House That Jack Built”), but at the same time Von Trier’s serial killer film is much more fun and sensible if you don’t do it this time of all times. It then becomes apparent that the Danish native has trolled his viewers a lot – and it wouldn’t be surprising if he only considers his film to be complete when the expected indignation from critics breaks out over him.
Jack (Matt Dillon) enriches his narrative with illustrative image snippets. Is that already art?
“The House That Jack Built” is a comedy. Let’s leave it at that for now and start with the obvious: Of course, Lars von Trier’s 17th feature film is, above all, a morbid serial killer story. It’s no surprise that Concorde, the film distributor responsible in this country, had a hard time getting the work through to the FSK in its entirety, even if the escapades of the unconventional house builder are anything but drastic. Whenever things threaten to become too explicit, Von Trier fades away. With the exception of a few very bloody headshots and a knife murder, violent acts such as the cutting off of a breast or the dragging of a woman to death are left entirely to the viewer’s imagination – this brings back memories of the indexing justifications of earlier terror films, in which rigid and firm assertions were made , the terror takes place directly on the screen, even if in reality the viewer only completes such images with the help of his own imagination. Either way: Lars von Trier has a reputation for not making any compromises in his films. And he doesn’t do that either, on the contrary. The fact that the author, who was born in Copenhagen in 1956, relies on the blooming imagination of his audience (unlike, for example, his previous work “Nymph()maniac,” which was actually very drastically illustrated), is an important part of the troll character celebrated here. Von Trier knows very well the reservations about himself, the criticism of his works and the image of himself celebrated by skeptics and himself. He just has to hint at things – in the end everyone will arrange the pieces of the puzzle in such a way that the greatest possible provocation, the greatest possible scandal arises – of course this is no longer a provocation in the true sense, but just an illustration of how it works.
In order for him to succeed, he specifically uses all the topics in his film that have been part of the reporting in recent years that did not leave Von Trier in good stead. From misogyny to an uncompromising obsession with violence to his very own understanding of (film) art, he routinely works through his entire oeuvre and the reaction to it (if you don’t notice, Von Trier even includes special excerpts from earlier films – more obvious ones). it does not work!). It’s not just the cheeky audacity with which the director shouts the purpose of his film into his audience’s face that’s astonishing, but also how easy he makes it for the audience to get behind his trolling intentions. It almost seems as if he can see clairvoyantly, because the question of the meaning and purpose of a scene hardly opens before he delivers a dialogue with that of Bruno Ganz (“The Tobacconist”) Verge embodied the answer: Why are women always the victims in his film? Does he really think he can justify his fantasies with a crude sense of artistic freedom? Does he enjoy murdering people for fun? Isn’t psychologizing his actions just an excuse? Is it a desire for recognition, a compulsion for attention or clumsy cleverness? Representing Lars von Trier himself, the main character Jack allows himself to be asked all the obvious questions given what is happening on screen and sometimes answers them with such disarming dryness (keyword: the victim role of women) that one cannot help but give credit to the auteur filmmaker for his directness to cheer; “The House That Jack Built” is ultimately a two-and-a-half hour filmic press conference in which Von Trier blasts his critics with the accusations made against him.
With much more luck than sense, Jack manages to remain invisible for a long time.
But Lars von Trier wouldn’t be Lars von Trier if his intentions didn’t result in the greatest possible practical joke. And so “The House That Jack Built” is of course not a dry, theoretical review of his previous vita, but something like the serial killer answer to “Nymph()maniac” – a deep black portrait of a sick soul who speaks confidently about his fate white. While Von Trier comments on the events on a meta level and occasionally intersperses illustrative documentary film snippets about topics such as wine production, architecture or big game hunting (we know this from “Nymph()maniac”), the simple narrative level shows what a megalomaniacal killer is like named Jack murders through half the city. As indicated at the beginning, Von Trier’s staging follows the motifs of a comedy. It’s not just Jack who always provokes incredulous smiles because of the audacity with which he carries out his work. Jack’s environment in particular shows Von Trier to be as naive as possible. Regardless of whether they are police officers, women, men, children – according to Jack’s description, everyone around him is an absolute idiot, without whose inviting stupidity the eccentric murderer would not have been able to commit all his deeds undetected. In addition, there are sometimes absurd coincidences (keyword: downpour), with which Von Trier quickly turns his main character into a not very credible but incredibly entertaining narrator. In addition, the editing and targeted use of music follow the rules of classic comedy cinema – anyone who likes their punch lines to be served in a particularly nihilistic way is in good hands with Jack.
Jack, in turn, has Matt Dillon (“Exit in style”) found an ideal actor. The actor, who will soon be seen in the US “Honig im Kopf” remake “Head Full of Honey”, has internalized the quintessence of the argumentative protagonist and creates something very exciting: despite the heinous acts, the disgust of which Lars Von Trier has no interest in Although the timing leaves room for doubt, his ramblings, which are sometimes more, but above all less substantive, captivate the viewer. It’s not like you’re rooting for Jack to achieve his outrageous goals (like shooting multiple victims with just a single bullet). Instead, Dillon brings out his character’s crazy, completely unrealistic worldview so clearly that you simply can’t get enough of his escapades – if only because you want to know how he will maneuver his way out of this or that situation in the end . Next to him, the supporting actors predominantly (and in the truest sense of the word) play victim roles, in which, however, there is no less a lot of variation to be discovered. While Riley Keogh (“Logan Lucky”) Above all, the (albeit very naive) warm-heartedness of her character is emphasized, says Uma Thurman (“In the Intoxication of the Stars”) the pain in the ass without any tact, whose performance undermines the viewer’s expectations of sacrifice from the very beginning.
Jack illustrates the rules of big game hunting – on people, of course.
Conclusion: In his pitch-black serial killer comedy “The House That Jack Built,” Lars von Trier illustrates how provocation works – and of course he has once again achieved his goal. First and foremost, it’s great fun to watch how the director lets his audience perform. And the escapades of the eponymous Jack are damn entertaining in their cynicism.
“The House That Jack Built” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from November 29th.