CANNES – Lars von Trier‘s "The House That Jack Built" came to Cannes with a lot of heavy baggage, but, after having seen it at this morning's press screening, the end result is actually von Trier indicting himself and his sins more than anything else, even as he repulses us. This is exactly the film you'd expect when delving into a serial killer drama directed by von Trier and yet, perverse fetishes aside, there are moments that give us a kind of satisfaction, as if the filmmaker is telling us that he deserves to be damned into the deepest pits of hell.
The film takes horrific serial-killing to whole new levels, it is so excessive in its violence towards women, and even children, that I can see most of Twitter losing their marbles over this 150 minute film. And yet, what I found in this film were some parallels to von Trier's beautiful 2011 apocalyptic depression-drama "Melancholia." There are meditative sections that really make you ponder not just von Trier, but humanity itself. Didn't expect that from the bad-boy of Danish cinema, now did ya?
I'll admit, the film, split into five sections, had me looking at my watch during the Riley Keough bit, in which she plays the girlfriend of our main protagonist Jack (a very excellent Matt Dillon), a Pacific Northwest serial-killer with no empathy whatsoever. Jack is actually a brilliant engineer that would rather be an architect and the house he builds at the film's conclusion is truly horrific.
In case you don't get it, Jack is Von Trier, admitting to his flaws as a human being and asking us if we could do the same. The director of classic such as "Breaking The Waves," "Dancer in the Dark," "Dogville" and "Melancholia" has all but lost his mojo recently, with "Antichrist" and "Nymphomaniac" being more about shock than artfulness, trash rather than awe. "Jack" is actually a meditation about failure and the lack of self-confidence, good and bad art, the moments that stick are basically therapy session for von Trier. The mainstream will avoid it like the plague, but cinephiles will no doubt take something out of it.