The House That Jack Built

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Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Matt Dillon in The House That Jack Built - Story tells serial killer's tale in five incidents
"Dillon makes a fair fist of the role of Jack." | Photo: Zentropa/Christian Geisnaes

Whatever is going on in Lars von Trier’s mind, this portrait of a serial killer (played with cool zest, soft tones and manic outbursts by Matt Dillon) exerts a grotesque fascination - even if you wish it didn’t.

The director’s much slammed perceived misogyny is represented here in bucket loads as he weaves together sadistic displays of violence against women and even two small children (the last straw for some departing viewers).

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There are nods to current debates about gender representation and post-Weinstein misconduct. At one point Dillon, as Jack, ponders “Why is it always men’s fault?” as women seem to make obliging victims and are therefore, in his words, “easier to work with.”

The women presented here, such as Riley Keough and Uma Thurman, are barely allowed to make an impression before they are bloodily dispatched and put in Jack’s cold store.

The film, structured in five “incidents” introduced by cue cards, takes the form of a conversation between Jack and an unseen (at least until the end) Bruno Ganz. Jack takes us through his litany of horror with a body count of more than 60.

Von Trier manages to also weave in Glenn Gould playing his piano, plus William Blake and a touch of animation.

The maestro of the macabre seems to be suggesting that we are all to blame in some way for the fact that such activities can go on unreported, as the victims' screams for help are unnoticed.

Dillon makes a fair fist of the role of Jack, who eventually seeks fame and notoriety by sending photographs of his victims to the local media.

Although it’s not a pleasant experience to endure, it’s probably better than being right inside von Trier’s agitated psyche. Making this film could be, for him, very necessary therapy.

Reviewed on: 15 May 2018
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A serial killer's life story is told through the murders that defined him.

Director: Lars von Trier

Writer: Lars von Trier

Starring: Riley Keough, Jeremy Davies, Uma Thurman, Matt Dillon, Ed Speleers, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Bruno Ganz, Sofie Gråbøl, David Bailie, Ji-tae Yu, Osy Ikhile, Marijana Jankovic, Christian Arnold, Jerker Fahlström, Robert G. Slade

Year: 2018

Runtime: 155 minutes

Country: Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden


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