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Film Review: The House That Jack Built (2018) - Danish / German / Belgian

Andrew Chan Lars von Trier Matt Dilion The House That Jack Built

The House That Jack Built (2018) - Danish / German / Belgian

Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)

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Director Lars von Trier never cease to fascinate me and to say he goes to the excess of cinema reach would be a clear understatement. His films can be considered classics and unique in their own rights and his latest work “The House That Jack Builth manages to climb back on the Cannes film calendar, despite a direct snub incident back in 2011 Cannes.  It is a kind of film that will turn off as many viewers as there will be critics that loath or stand by his vision. Personally, I didn’t found the film to be offensive and I took a more playful black comedy approach to the whole sadist and egoistic filming of a serial killer on the loose. Perhaps portraying his own inner demons of sorts, Lars makes killing into an art form, not necessary taking the audience on the ride, but rather creating a distance with various filmic techniques on display.


Matt Dillon plays his best performance in decades as the serial killer confessing a number of his vivid and often brutal killings to an mysterious narrator (beautifully voiced by veteran Bruno Ganz). Dilion’s deadpan expression and boyish charm is full on display as his flirts and forces his way into women in particular safety and comfort zone in order to commit his atrocious acts of killing. As a psycho, Dilion shows the character is of another world, he doesn’t feel or need, but rather aspire for the greatest art form in the Nazi killing machine mode. Uma Thurman plays the first victim and gives a good account before falling to her impending death. In fact, Lars shows off the killings like a deer hunt or trophies collected along the way. The same goes for other female characters Riley Keough and Sofie Gråbøl are the weakest link as they all lack real emotions and cleverness, perhaps emphasising as to why Dilion manages to kill his way through the whole film.


All in all, “The House That Jack Built” is most certainly not Lars’s best work and it does comes off as rather autobiographical and creepy at times. It goes deeper into the existential world of beings and hell is thrown around as both a conversation and reality. Some critics labelled the film as more alluding to “The Human Centipede”, but there are messages to be had and more often than not, Lars shows them with realistic imagery for us to ponder and think.


I rated it 7.5/10


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