Directed by Lars Von Trier
Country: Denmark / other
In The House That Jack Built, Lars Von Trier’s subversive artistic qualities remain undiminished, even when he whimsically blurs the picture with a final chapter whose ludicrous irony and misrepresentation prevented the film to ascend to higher levels.
Set in Washington in the 70s and 80s, the story spans 12 years and depicts five random incidents that marked the long serial killing life of Jack (Matt Dillon), a wealthy engineer and a psychopath with severe OCD, who got famous as Mr. Sophistication. The nickname was earned at the expense of inventive atrocities inflicted to his victims, whom he photographed stylishly to fill the media’s first pages. In truth, this man is an art lover who turns his crimes into repulsive art forms. He possesses a salient narcissism that becomes uncontrollable whenever he feels humiliated. David Bowie’s “Fame” often accompanies the post-crime scenes in a way to intensify his sense of swaggering accomplishment.
The morbid occurrences are sequenced with occasional flashbacks showing Jack’s propensity for evil as a child, as well as voice-over conversations with Verge (Bruno Ganz), an imaginary character who appears by the end to show him to the gates of the hell where he belongs.
Although fun-filled, the incidents are uneven and decrease in force with time. The first of them, featuring the irresistible Uma Thurman, is the one that stays longer in the memory.
Dark humor and stinging sarcasm are added in a tale that can be hilarious one minute and gruesome the minute after. You'll need a strong stomach to digest the shocking secrets Jack has to unveil, a disturbing character whose obsession and impulsiveness will destroy him at some point.
While Matt Dillon is insanely convincing in his performance, Von Trier obtains an extravagant blend of horror and humor from the monstrosity of his character.