It’s rather bemusing to note that Danish provocateur Lars von Trier began the 2010s with a movie as haunting, wrenching and transcendental as Melancholia and ended it with one as inflammatory, grisly and brash as The House that Jack Built (one can say the same about the 2000s too which he’d begun with the bleakly beautiful Dancer in the Dark and ended with the daringly controversial Antichrist). What has remained unchanged, however, is his irrepressible penchant for provocations and cheeky subversion. Filled with disturbing themes, unsettling violence and misogyny, wildly digressive narrative, gallows humour, flamboyant stylistic insertions and biting self-reflexive commentary, the film’s bound to mesmerize and infuriate in equal measures; no wonder, on its premiere at Cannes – which was an event in itself given that he’d been declared persona non grata 6 years back – over 100 viewers walked out, while there was also a 10-minute standing ovation at the end. It’s structured as freewheeling, mock-serious and ironic conversations – mix of self-deprecating ruminations and deadpan philosophizing – between Jack (Matt Dillon), a demented sociopath and brutal serial killer with a love for architecture, and a man he calls Verge (Bruno Ganz), who’s either the Roman poet Virgil’s amused ghost or Jack’s exasperated psychotherapist or perhaps his delusional conscience; and, over faux-intellectual discourses ranging from rationalizing his murders and the grand artistry behind them to Glenn Gould’s music and Nazi concentration camps, Jack recounts over flashbacks 5 of his vicious crimes – a cocky woman (Uma Thurman) he bludgeoned; a gullible widow he strangled; his unwitting girlfriend and her kids he executed; a stunning hooker (Riley Keough) he massacred; and his absurd scheme to murder 5 men with a single bullet.
Director: Lars von Trier
Genre: Drama/Psychological Horror/Black Comedy