THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT
(director/writer: Lars von Trier; screenwriters: story by von Trier/idea by Louise Vesth; cinematographer: Manuel Alberto Claro; editor: Molly Malene Stensgaard; cast: Matt Dillon (Jack), Bruno Gantz (Verge), Uma Thurman (Lady 1), Riley Keough (Simple), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Lady 2), Sofie Grabol (Lady 3), Jeremy Davies (Al), David Bailie (S.P.); Runtime: 152; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Louise Vesth; IFC Films; 2018)
“Jejune serial killer film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The underwhelming controversial shockmeister charlatan Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier (“Breaking The Waves”/”Dogville”), who praised Hitler in a 2011 press conference at Cannes and was promptly banned from the festival, is writer-director of this in your face jejune serial killer film. In this tedious crime drama, Matt Dillon plays the humorless creepy intellectual architect who becomes frustrated and for 20 years in the Pacific Northwest of America goes on to kill mostly women of his 60 vics. It’s a heavy-handed film that seems to take pleasure in mocking liberals, sexual vics (the Uma Thurman character is viewed as too dumb not to be a vic) and America is messed with for not being on board with its gun culture. It’s executed according to a series of incidents, whereby the sicko killer places his corpses in poses for pictures. He refers to them later on for additional kicks. I guess the attempt here is to shoot for black humor. It’s overlong at two and a half hours and features a tiresome nightmare story that has such things as Uma’s character bashed in the face by Jack with a tire-jack (forcing a bad pun to be its punchline) and goes onto other unpleasant images such as a duck mutilated, strangulations, mutilations, stabbings and bludgeonings. The sociopath killer, Jack, has voiceover conversations covering 5 incidents of his murder spree with Verge (Bruna Ganz). We will learn by the film’s end that he is Virgil, the tour guide of The Divine Comedy (which gives the trashy narrative some phony literary cover). Von Trier tries painting the killer as a fellow artist going over the edge, thereby comparing murder to art. What the fraudulent genius filmmaker is up to here is hard to determine. To me it seems as if he is exploiting the violent extremes of human behavior to point out that society is dehumanizing and its structures can lead any of us to be vics or perpetrators of gruesome acts. I find it chilling that this egocentric filmmaker thinks he can piss over the viewers with such fascistic art and think of himself as some kind of populist liberator of film. It’s an unsettling film that tries to tell us that bad and good art are just as valuable (no wonder Hitler had such an appeal). This demented film ends in hellish visual splendor and a weird musical outpouring over the end credits. That the provocative filmmaker has nothing deep to say about the #MeToo movement or any of the killings, speaks to its cynical attitude toward modern-day life.
REVIEWED ON 2/1/2019 GRADE: C- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/