The House That Jack Built, the latest film from director Lars von Trier, caused a massive critical uproar with its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The film received a standing ovation after its first screening, at least by those who stayed through it. Despite the ovation, The House That Jack Built drove away dozens of critics and audience members before it finished, largely due to the depiction of graphic violence against women and children. Overall, reactions to The House That Jack Built were mixed at best, downright withering at their worst. The film also placed additional scrutiny on von Trier himself, who has a reputation as one of the worst directors to work with.
Tweets about The House That Jack Built are as charged as the reviews about it, perhaps even more so. As a warning, not only are their SPOILERS AHEAD, there is some graphic violence detailed as well.
Matt Dillon Plays A Serial Killer Who Enjoys Tormenting His Victims, Many Women And Children
Matt Dillon plays the titular Jack, a serial killer with a penchant for murdering women and children. Viewers watch as, over the course of 12 years, Jack kills again and again. This includes watching him not just murder but also gleefully torture his victims with little to no repercussions. Of all the victims Jack takes, the one that apparently stuck the most with people is a duckling that's mutilated by the killer in his childhood.
The Film Wallows In Visceral Torture, A Theme Seen In Many von Trier Films
Excessive and practically glorified violence, particularly against women, is a dead giveaway that this is a Lars von Trier film. The film shows Jack slicing off women's appendages, mutilating children, and even stock footage from Nazi concentration camps. The unrelenting violence, while arguably an "aesthetic choice," felt torturous to many viewers.
All of the people around Jack, especially women, are portrayed to be too stupid or too naive to realize his malicious nature. Riley Keough's character, for example, sticks around with Dillon even though he calls her "simple" and at one point tells her "men are the real victims." Furthermore, it follows a similar vein as other von Trier films like Antichrist and Dogville, where the violence disproportionately falls upon women instead of men.
This Is von Trier's First Film At Cannes Since He Was Banned In 2011 For Nazi-Related Comments
The House That Jack Built marks von Trier's return to the Cannes Film Festival, which banned him back in 2011 for making comments people saw as sympathetic towards Nazis. During a Q&A, the director joked about being a Nazi, from there digging his own hole deeper and deeper while Kirsten Dunst was visibly uncomfortable next to him. Instead of backtracking, von Trier barreled onward in the conversation:
What can I say? I understand Hitler. He did some wrong things, absolutely, but I can see him sitting there in his bunker at the end ... I sympathize with him, yes, a little bit.
Accounts Say Nearly 100 People Walked Out Of The Cannes Premiere
The House That Jack Built elicited quite the polarizing reaction from its Cannes audience. Though the film reportedly garnered a standing ovation, its over-the-top violence drove nearly 100 attendees from the theater. Many viewers found the glorification of violence to be not only vile but pointless, serving little purpose other than to disgust and repulse.