The House That Jack Built


Comedy / Crime / Drama / Horror / Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 59%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 83%
IMDb Rating 6.9 10 36281


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March 01, 2019 at 02:08 PM

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118.92 MB
24 fps
2hr 32 min
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228.31 MB
24 fps
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2hr 32 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by TheVictoriousV 4 / 10

When you're so unique it becomes boring.

This one's worth skipping.

Anyone else miss pre-depression Lars von Trier? I still give him Antichrist and even Melancholia, but the "just because" stylistic choices of the tedious Nymphomaniac made me yearn for a time when he had enough thought behind his unconventionality to give us his wonderful Dancer in the Dark, and enough humor to give us Riget. He was always nasty, defiant, and upsetting like only he knows how, but some things have changed.

Now we have The House That Jack Built; another film that, despite how different it is from every other movie out now, still manages to be predictable if you know your Trier. I often defend strange decisions and rule-breaking in film, as with Michael Haneke's Funny Games, but Von Trier somehow manages to make clear that the only reason he's breaking the rules is that he's Von Trier, the supposed arthouse emperor. See what I did with that shot? Aren't these title cards weird? Look at how oddly edited everything is!

We get "more of the usual" in other departments as well. The documentary-esque camera work (à la Dogme 95), the super-slow-motion bits, the jump-cuts, the lengthy lecture-like conversations, and the controversial scenes of violence and mutilation. The villain protagonist, OCD-ridden serial killer Jack, narrates the film nigh constantly, and despite sometimes doing us the favor of explaining to us what he's thinking and feeling, I don't know that he ranks among the greatest, most complex killers of cinema.

Matt Dillon is good in the role but like many a recent Trier character, Jack rarely partakes in any particularly human interactions or monologues. It's difficult to emotionally connect with the characters of Von Trier lately, especially when they start reciting whatever opinion or observation was on the director's mind while we was writing and felt the need to vent.

The movie supposedly alludes to his fiasco at Cannes. You know, that time when he apparently "understood Hitler"? I didn't notice this when I saw the film myself but I believe in the critics (there's definitely a sequence where he congratulates himself). It's nice that he got to screen another film at the festival after all, but the film in question may have made his future at Cannes uncertain.

In the movie, Jack retells a number of "incidents" from the past 12 years of his life, where he would slaughter women played by the likes of Uma Thurman, Riley Keough, and Siobhan Fallon Hogan - these scenes, I gather, haven't exactly countered the idea that Von Trier has weird feelings about women. I maintain that he gave us admirable female characters in pictures like Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, but who knows? Did the divorce change things?

Listening avidly to Jack's tale is Bruno Ganz, never seen by the viewer but often heard making obvious observations, and/or notes which Von Trier no doubt really WANTS the audience to make during a given scene. Again, thanks for the assistance.

The House That Jack Built is just not that rewarding to watch. It's amazing how a movie can be so different, so completely defiant, and yet so completely unsurprising at the same time. When you're spoonfed all emotions and themes, and you've gotten used to the cruel violence and even the persistent rule-breaking within the presentation, what's there to chew on? Towards the end, the film goes for a more surreal (albeit at times just "random") approach and I find myself interested again, although it isn't quite enough.

Hell, the film doesn't even have Udo Kier. What kind of Von Trier film is that?

Reviewed by drucom 5 / 10

Pseudo-art, and the death throes of von Trier

The amount of 10/10 reviews are absolutely ridiculous. Pay them no heed. 1/10 is also similarly ridiculous, as there are positive take-aways (I enjoyed Dillon's neuroticism, and the first quarter of the film is genuinely funny). However, it ends up being nothing more than a competently produced film with almost no substance, an 'anthology' with no clear direction, and an overarching 'theme' ending up as an afterthought more than anything else.

'Shocked audiences at Cannes'...yes, cheap shocks. What could have been, in concept, a wonderful blend of comedy and horror falls flat, with the identity of the film never fully fledging itself out. Is it a dark comedy? One could argue this with the start. Is it von Trier lashing out at accusations of misogyny and pretentiousness by doubling down on both? There's plenty of proof for this argument as well. Is it an exploration into the nature of evil and psychopathy, and what constitutes art and artistic expression? It could have been, but it's never explored deeper than the usual tropes.

I think what upsets me the most about this film is how asinine it is, BECAUSE of the 'shocking' nature of it. It approaches self-parody at times, with brutality being used for no other purpose other than to make audiences cringe. If the elements serve no purpose other than shock, what is redeeming about it?

'The House That Jack Built' as a dark comedy - this would have worked fantastically, as there are legitimately funny (darkly funny, but funny nonetheless) moments in this film; the rising frustration at a broken car jack, the interchange between him and the woman behind the locked screen door, the blundering act with the police officer, the creation of the waving child before his body fully froze. The issue is that the film never fully embraces this (think American Psycho, where the film adaptation of the book softens the brutality and opts for dark, absurd comedy throughout).

'The House That Jack Built' as a personal commentary of von Trier - there is also evidence of this, and in spades. The narration throughout between Jack and 'Verge' (Virgil? Hell's guide?) approaches breaking the 4th wall, between commentary of the film and commentary on von Trier's own body of work as a whole. The self-masturbation was palpable, but it is is fully confirmed near the end, when he uses footage from his own films as supporting evidence. However, this wasn't fully embraced either because the accusations against him of being a pretentious misonynyst, instead of deflecting from them, or justifying them via the commentary itself, are merely confirmed throughout the film; brutal violence is only employed against women, with very graphic shots of strangulation, bludgeoning, and even slicing off a woman's breasts) and Verge even points this out in the film. Men are killed, sure, but never sadistically. The final trap of killing 5 men with a single bullet feels merciful more than anything. Was von Trier purposefully doubling down on accusations of misogyny by ramping up the misogyny? What meta-commentary is he trying to do here? This is a cheap self-analysis of his own work, a blatant lack of self-awareness.

'The House That Jack Built' as an exploration into the nature of evil, psychopathy, and artistic expression - throughout the whole film, Jack again and again mentions that he is an artist - in a literal sense, being an engineer-turned-architect, wanting to design and built his perfect edifice - which he demolishes and rebuilds over and over again; but also in an attempt to blur the line between artistry and psychopathy/evil, by making art out of his murders - comically posed photographs of his victims, presentations of his hunting which include culled crows, along with his family - even this idea is only half-baked, as only some of his murders fall into this. The most pervasive thought I had was that Jack was a pseudo-intellectual narcissist who overestimated his own intelligence, proved by his own failures as an architect, his basic views of art, and I thought whether this was in itself some kind of meta-commentary von Trier was making of himself, ironically - does he view himself as Jack thinks he does, or as Jack actually is? The reviews that state that Jack is a 'genius' are baffling - the movie makes it clear that luck, or divine providence, are instrumental in Jack's success - there are blunders and lack of preparation, in almost every instance. He even voices his lack of repercussion for anything he's ever done, which is why these interpretations of him as a 'genius killer' are baffling to me. The creation of the house from the corpses was almost so obvious, I was hoping it wouldn't actually happen - but it does, to my dismay. And at this point, the shocks are non-existent. The parallels between personal evil and the 'great evils' (Hitler, Idi Amin, Mussolini, genocide, etc) are so fundamentally basic that it must be a piss-take by von Trier.

Which leads me to the following: Is von Trier so self-aware that he would make a film as a parody-commentary of his own body of work and his approach to film-making? Or is he so self-absorbed that he doesn't see that it's become a parody of himself, and he can produce half-baked films to (as evidenced by the user reviews here) riotous reception and being lauded a 'cinema genius'? I don't know, and I don't care to spend more time pondering this question, because I don't believe he is the genius that the cult of personality around him would paint him as. I believe he has produced genuinely beautiful (if haunting) films, with 'Dancer in the Dark' and 'Dogville', but the reliance of shock as a means to push films has gone full circle into self-parody now, and being self-aware of this as he may be, doesn't justify the pseudo-artistry of it.

Reviewed by Impatotec 8 / 10

Lars von Trier's autobiography and a narcissistic statement about art...

As a long time von Trier fan, I believe it's pretty obvious he made this film primarily for himself, and secondly for the dogmatic fans of his own work. Sure, on the surface it is a sort of a black psychological (divine, *wink, wink*) comedy, as some of his previous films can, as well, be seen. However, there is a layer beyond the physical, even more so the psychological aspect of what is portrayed.

I'll assume anyone reading this has already seen the film so I'm putting spoilers on.

It is my firm belief that the entire film is a metaphor for stages of life of an artist or at least a creator in some sense. As good and realistic, if you will, as the portrayal of the mental states Jack is in, what is beyond his actions is the most fascinating part. Jack often refers to his work as art, and incidentally, the "incidents" represent the stages of an artists creative mentality, the way von Trier saw and perhaps experienced. It starts with, in the context of the chapters in the film: 1.Impulsive creation, art in the moment, that one breath of inspiration that sets an artist on his path. 2. Seeking perfection, obsessing over every possible detail, trying to achieve the ultimate form of art. 3. Transgressive and controversial art, imagery designed to shock the audiences, that I believe also self-referential. 4. Love and hate of one's own work, reaching a climax of creativity, at the point of giving up and exposing ones self. 5. Burning out, making art just to get a new high, experimenting just for the sake of it and finding no new joy in this process.

Throughout the film, at one point, we get a flash of most of von Triers past work, ranging from The element of crime (1984), towards Nymphomaniac (2013), which I believe closes up his ode to himself and his life's work, showing that narcissistic side again, with a possible message of the end of his artistic endeavors, but also pride in himself as an artist and his career -and possibly a large "f you" to the Cannes Film Festival, represented by the house he finally manages to build, with the "body" of his work, while also being a word play on the nursery rhyme. The epilogue is a very comical, almost cartoonish parody of the Divine Comedy, in which Jack (von Trier) is Dante, in which he shows emotion for the first time in a Citizen-Kane-like moment, but instead of his happy ending he falls into the deepest part of hell, possibly referring to von Trier's own mental state.

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