Von Trier’s heaven and hell

Cannes walk-outs at serial killer premiere

by Richard Mowe

Lars Von Trier in Cannes with his jokey T-shirt reading, 'Persona non grata - Official Selection'
Lars Von Trier in Cannes with his jokey T-shirt reading, 'Persona non grata - Official Selection' Photo: Richard Mowe
The eternal bad boy of Danish cinema, Lars Von Trier, back in Cannes for the first time since inappropriate Nazi remarks had him banned from the Festival seven years ago, has lost none of his ability to shock.

The red carpet première last night of The House That Jack Built, which has Matt Dillon as a serial killer in what appears to be a descent into Hell, provoked walk-outs and groans among the audience at the plethora of gruesome scenes in the two-and-half-hour-plus bloodbath.

Some reports put the number of people heading for the exits at more than 200. Von Trier ascended the steps of the Palais with Dillon and fellow actors Sofie Grabol, Bruno Ganz and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. Von Trier was last in Cannes with Melancholia in 2011. He played up his bad boy image, sporting a T-shirt bearing the Cannes logo and the slogan, "Persona non grata - Official Selection"

The new film is showing Out of Competition and Von Trier will not be in the firing line of a press conference, confined instead to a few select interviews.

Dillon, in character as Jack, talks about his killing spree thus: “Some people claim that the atrocities we commit in our fictions are those inner desires we cannot commit in our controlled civilisation. So they are expressed instead through our art. I don't agree. I believe heaven and hell are one and the same. The soul belongs to heaven. And the body to hell.”

Despite last night’s walk-out and a storm of social media comment such as “disgusting,” “gross,” and “vile,” the film’s screening did conclude with a traditional Cannes standing ovation.

Read more about The House That Jack Built in our gallery of photos from the film.

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