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USA in the 1970s. We follow the highly intelligent Jack over a span of 12 years and are introduced to the murders that define Jack's development as a serial killer. We experience the story from Jack's point of view, while he postulates each murder is an artwork in itself. As the inevitable police intervention is drawing nearer, he is taking greater and greater risks in his attempt to create the ultimate artwork. Along the way we experience Jack's descriptions of his personal condition, problems and thoughts through a recurring conversation with the unknown Verge - a grotesque mixture of sophistry mixed with an almost childlike self-pity and psychopathic explanations. The House That JackBuilt is a dark and sinister story, yet presented through a philosophical and occasional humorous tale.Written by
Be afraid! The bad boy of European movie industry, Von Trier is back in movie theatres after 5 year hiatus.
The story follows Jack (Matt Dillon), a highly intelligent serial killer, over the course of 12 years, and depicts the murders that develop his inner madman.
Also starring - Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Sofie Gråbøl, Riley Keough, Jeremy Davies.
This doesn't happen often: I watched the whole movie, the two and a half hours of it, and still couldn't say whether I find it good or bad, or even whether I liked it or not. Didn't find it boring, that's for sure - although I wouldn't call it exciting either, exactly.
One reason are the short but vivid scenes of extreme violence, which make one take a mental step back from the experience, and even think about not writing a review at all. Just in case that some reader would think that I condone violence or something.
The second reason is, of course, Lars von Trier himself, the co-writer and director of this joint. He doesn't seem extreme in interviews, but when it comes to work, the notorious film-maker likes to provoke and divide audiences without hesitation.
And "The House That JackBuilt" might just be one of his crowning achievements in that.
Critics are divided as well. Many see the movie as empty provocation, or just tedious. Some see it as a something more. One is certain: it's not a mainstream entertainment. Not only for the overall creepiness and length, but also for how it's been put together.
You see, Von Trier has been more interested in making a point than making a movie with audience-friendly flow or tempo.
Compared to the "regular" movies, there's no clear structure - yes, Jack's story is divided between five cases but what happens during each is never easily anticipated - or for how long.
This is one of those rare movies which keep you guessing for the most time, never knowing what can happen next.
Von Trier also doesn't try to build and hold suspense, like in a "normal" movie, especially the one about serial killers.
He may have even actively worked against letting us just watch and get carried away because there's so much narration during the whole thing - in fhe form of constant dialogue between Jack and his mysterious companion played by Bruno Ganz.
Maybe because of the spotaneousness and unpredicability of the central antihero, it somehow still works. I never found myself idling and bored. Even during the end-section that left me even quite puzzled, which was clearly the authors' intent.
What makes it all so provocative and divisive, then, you may ask. It's the constant narration or dialogue between the serial killer and his companion. They argue over different things, mainly whether killing can be considered as art, and what makes murder such a bad thing anyway.
At first glance, these may seem like a stupid questions, but there's more to these arguments than wish to break taboos or something. Von Trier has deeper thoughts on the matter, and he wishes to make the audience think along.
People will interpret Von Trier's intentions differently, which is surely part of his goal. I would summarize the central thesis that if art is an act of creation and self-expression, then artful killing can be art too (which it certainly is for the serial killer Jack).
And before you rush to claim that killing is bad, let's not forget that everybody is at least indirectly or partly responsible for certain amount of death around the world, from eating meat, or even buying it and then just throwing it away, to not taking an active stand against destroying the environment where we all live.
Von Trier goes on to discuss several connecting themes, such as how killing can be addiction and how most of the violence is somehow associated with only men.
But the most shocking parts are Jack's actual killings, especially some that I didn't believe the author would dare to include in this day and age of political correctness.
Then again, the director's own stance seems to be against killing, because it's never glorified which is rare in the movies indeed.
Some of these acts may be funny in their own horrible way but none is intended to make you feel this adrenalin-induced watching glee as in most action flicks. If a person gets shot, for example, there's nothing cool and visually captivating about it. One just drops down like a big bag of flour, and stays this way.
Having commented on all the "important" things about the production, I can't forget Matt Dillon giving a remarkable performance as our anti-hero.
Just like the movie's approach to killings, there is nothing show-offish about him work. He seems to have wholly immersed into this character which makes him just mesmerizing in its own quiet way.
Dillon's easy naturalness combined with the unpredictability of the character makes this a cinematic "bad guy" to remember, although there's little unforgettably cinematic about him per se.
"The House That JackBuilt" is a movie quite unlike anything else that you can see in cinemas this year. Unless you and I visit very different kind of cinemas.
Anyway, don't approach without hard stomach. Von Trier is not for everybody, and has never been, especially his latest.
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