The House That Jack Built

12/23/2018 11:30

Film: The House That Jack Built

Year: 2018

Director: Lars von Trier

Writer: Lars von Trier

Starring: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz and Uma Thurman



This was a film that I was turned on to by the news that people walked out during its screening at the Cannes Film Festival. I actually wrote a news article about this and personally was a little bit skeptical about it. I was still intrigued to see what this film was all about. The official synopsis is the story follows Jack (Matt Dillon), a highly intelligent serial killer, over the course of twelve years, and depicts the murders that really develop his inner madman.

We kick off with hearing talking with a black screen. One of the voices is Jack while the other is that of Verge (Bruno Ganz). It appears they are traveling somewhere and during this journey, Jack is telling the stories of 5 murders he committed that really shaped who he is.

The first one is of Uma Thurman. She is a woman who asks for his help when she has a flat tire. She is loud woman who is talking about serial killers and bullying Jack around. He finally snaps and kills her. I am taking this as his first murder, but the film shows us glimpses of him as a boy, where it seems like his nature into what he grows into.

From here we see other woman that he murders and in-between each story, we learn more about Jack’s past and more insights into him as a person. The more he kills, the more depraved he becomes. To make things worse, he has horrible Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and believes he is making art in what he is doing. Everything takes a turn when he tries to complete his greatest work yet, but can he before everything tumbles down.

This recap was a little difficult to do, because part of it is that you really need to see and experience a lot of what happens in the film. I didn’t really want to spoil things either. There is a lot to unravel in this film as it runs for two and half hours. I will say that if you like serial killer films, this one is quite interesting. It does have a feel of Dexter in that we are getting a lot of narration from Jack as he tells us the things he did. I personally enjoy that, but I know some people might not.

Being this film is about a serial killer, I did find it interesting all of things that are incorporated into the character that match up with what a lot of real serial killers had going on. One of them being that Jack is attractive. He is quite smart; he has issues as a child where he would hurt animals. As stated above, he has OCD and he also mimics being a police officer at one point. This attention to detail was something I really thought was good.

Something else I really enjoyed about the story is seeing the change in his character. We are getting him telling us this story, but we are actually seeing him as he becomes worse. It is odd that he is the killer in this film, but at some scenes, I was hoping that he wouldn’t get caught. I was thinking to myself that I shouldn’t be thinking this way, but the film presents it in such a way and he has such charisma that it was hard not to.

There is also the issue of religion in this film. The epilogue really delves into this, but I won’t get into that. I will say that Verge has a direct representation with this though. It is interesting that fairly early in the film, Jack states that he is an atheist. He does believe there is almost divine intervention though that allows him to get away with things. As I also said as well, the ending really delves into this much more.

Something else that I could see a lot of people being upset about is the misogyny in the film. I don’t necessarily this film is misogynistic though. I do believe that Jack is and I also believe that is another common trait among serial killers. The film actually calls Jack out on this aspect and I don’t even think the female victims are stupid. I think there’s the realism that you don’t know what is happening until it is too late.

I will say that this film did have some pacing issues with me. I think the problem is that the film is too long. There is quite a bit that could have been cut out to tighten this film up. There are a lot of things that are repeated a couple of times that wasn’t really needed. We get some talk about art, architecture and engineering that doesn’t really go anywhere. I think that could have been removed to tighten this up. With that said though, I really dug the ending and where it went. I thought it was an interesting idea to use in this film.

From here I will go to the acting, which was amazing. Dillon did a phenomenal job as Jack. I think his look, how he plays the role and everything was perfect for it. As mean as it is to probably say, I could see him actually being this guy if he wanted to. Ganz is quite interesting in this film. We don’t see him until the ending, but I really like what his character represents. Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Sofie Gråbøl and Riley Keough were all good as the victims. It was interesting to see Keough topless as well. The rest of the cast round out the film for what they needed as well.

Something else that was great was the effects in the film. This was something that I was curious about as I knew a lot of people were upset about this part of the film. They were done practically, so the amount of realism that went into them definitely is a part of it. I don’t even think this is the most violent Lars von Trier film I’ve ever seen. There was one that really got to me, but I would say the effects were really good.

Now with that said, I thought this was a good film. There are the makings of a great film here, but I think that there are just some minor missteps. I thought the story was great as well as the acting and the effects. There are some darker aspects to the story I liked. I think that the pacing would have been better if just some of the unneeded things were removed from it. As it is, I think that it hurts the flow a bit. The score of the film really didn’t stand out to me, aside from them using David Bowie’s Fame. I did happen to really enjoy that. I did have to watch this as the rated cut, so I do want to check out the director’s cut when it’s available. I do think this film has the potential to move up to a great film, but after the initial viewing I have it as good.


My Rating: 8 out of 10