It started with laughter and ended with a round of applause. No, this was not a comedy show, but it sure felt like one. This was the screening for the director’s cut of Lars Von Trier’s newest piece of controversy, The House That Jack Built. For two-and-a-half hours, von Trier showcased his latest experiment in misogyny, violence, and stroking his own ego.
The House That Jack Built marks von Trier’s return to filmmaking after being banned from Cannes in 2011 for making comments about sympathizing with Hitler. His newest film documents 12 years in the life of Jack, played by Matt Dillon, and the five incidents that he believes have defined him as a serial killer, as recounted to Verge (Bruno Ganz). These five incidents involve the brutal murder and mutilation of female bodies, save for the last incident. To Jack, these murders are an act of high art, markers of his own intelligence — what he’s doing is not wrong because it is in the name of art. The film follows a Dante-like structure as we traverse through the different incidents like the circles of hell, and perhaps even wander into hell itself.