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  • Amir Steklov

The House That Jack Built - (2018)

Director: Lars von Trier.


The House That Jack Built follows the life of Jack (played by Matt Dillon), an intelligent and meticulous serial killer, as he reflects on his past murders and prepares for his ultimate masterpiece – building a house out of all the bodies he collected.


Von Trier subverts the traditional conventions of the serial killer genre by delving into Jack's psyche and presenting him as a fully fleshed-out character rather than a one-dimensional villain. This comes at a cost: the audience might mistake the main character's thoughts and moral values as reflecting an ideal von Trier tries to promote. As seen from the negative reviews of von Trier's last films and the cancellation of his entire brand by many in the progressive filmmaker community.


Von Trier confronts those accusations of misogyny, neo-Nazism, and cruelty by criticizing his protagonist. It’s as if he built this protagonist as a caricature of how society sees him (von Trier), and through the shameful actions and twisted worldview of this protagonist, he shows regret for crimes he (von Trier) has never committed.


The case of Lars von Trier reminds me of Kim Ki-duk. Both directors explore the lust for cruelty and violence as a natural part of the human soul. Both have been cancelled by culture and accused of the crimes their fictional characters have committed in their films.


I'm not saying they didn't do any of the things people accuse them of, but one of the things that I think is very risky in both stories is the fact that in our contemporary culture, we do not engage with content we are not comfortable with. We build our echo chambers (perhaps like Jack's house in the movie) and use the tools of social media and cancel culture to eradicate everything and everyone who challenges us.


I think there is an important lesson about human nature in the movies of Lars von Trier and Kim Ki-duk. Removing them from our discourse and culture will just open hidden doors for the dangers they portray in their movies to really grow in our society under our nose, with no tools for us to recognize it or a vocabulary to talk about it.


In that movie, Lars von Trier tackles the point above by showing us that Jack is free to murder in broad daylight. No one sees him, even when one of his victims screams in her apartment, surrounded by neighbors; no one comes to help her.


This is the real danger von Trier is warning us about: the danger of closing our eyes and ignoring/not believing the “noble rot” that ferments within each and every one of us from time to time.


Taking 155 minutes to empathize with Jack will help us all to recognize the serial killer within us.


Verdict: 5 / 5 ★ - Must watch.



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