The House that Jack Built Controversy- Why Was “The House That Jack Built” so Controversial?

Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built is a 2018 horror film starring Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Sofie Grbl, Riley Keough, and Jeremy Davies. Its plot follows Jack (Dillon), a serial killer who commits multiple killings in the United States state of Washington during a 12-year span in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The film is organized as a sequence of flashback vignettes narrated by Jack to the Roman poet Virgil, during which Jack attempts to make a justification for his crimes, using Dante’s Inferno as a metatext.

The House That Jack Built began production in Sweden in 2016 after being envisaged as a television project by von Trier. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, marking von Trier’s first appearance there in almost six years. Critics had mixed feelings about the movie.

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Why Was “The House That Jack Built” so Controversial?

the house that jack built controversy

The House That Jack Built was bound to cause a stir. After all, this is a Lars Von Trier film, and the filmmaker is known for his provocative works. However, some viewers believed that the director went too far in depicting the maturation of a prolific serial murderer in this horror film.

Matt Dillon plays Jack, a serial killer who recounts the five most crucial homicides of his life in The House That Jack Built. Viewers watch as he develops his ability for cruel and heartless murder while avoiding any consequences thanks to a series of seemingly fortunate breaks that he sees as some sort of heavenly message. Each murder is depicted in a vivid and realistic manner. However, this isn’t the only factor contributing to the film’s controversies. When audiences acquainted with Lars Von Trier’s work sat down to watch a film about a serial murderer, they probably expected to witness some brutal violence.

How could they forget about Antichrist’s genital mutilation? Nonetheless, for some, what they received was still too much for them to take. When The House That Jack Built premiered at Cannes in 2018, it sparked protests and indignation, with The Playlist describing it as “repulsive, toxic rubbish.” This uproar derives from a number of scenes in the film, which range from obnoxious misogyny to horrifying child taxidermy. Furthermore, while the film presents documentary footage of Speer smiling with Adolf Hitler, which some viewers have interpreted as Von Trier’s personal views on Nazism, Jack sympathizes with Nazi architect Albert Speer. The actual issue surrounding Lars Von Trier’s picture The House That Jack Built stems from what he appears to be saying with it.

Why Is Jack’s House Even More Controversial?

the house that jack built controversy

The portrayal of women in The House That Jack Built seemed to offend the most in a film full of contentious imagery and concepts. Jack compels a mother to serve pie to her two dead children who he had just shot in front of her at one point. He also slices a woman’s breasts off with a knife, putting one on the windshield of a neighboring police officer’s car like a parking ticket and fashioning the other into a money purse.

Perhaps most problematic of all is Jack’s handling of women, referring to one with whom he appears to be in a relationship as “Simple,” claiming callously that “it’s always the man’s fault,” and questioning why the woman is “always the victim.” Each time Jack kills, he does so with a lady who appears to him to be less-than-intelligent, causing spectators to wonder if this mirrors Lars Von Trier’s own attitude toward women.

From the self-hatred sequence in Melancholia to the vivid images of real sex in Nymphomaniac, Lars Von Trier’s films have always been controversial. Nonetheless, Von Trier appears to be working hard in The House That Jack Built to insult everyone he can, from women to law enforcement to animal rights activists. He appears to be trolling his viewers to see what kind of reaction he might get.

the house that jack built controversy

In some ways, it could be interpreted as a remark on his own controversial career. Whatever the case may be, much of the backlash surrounding Lars Von Trier’s film The House That Jack Built has been directed at him rather than the film itself, which is understandable given that it is clearly a horror film.

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Surprisingly, during one of Jack and Verge’s philosophical discussions in between murders, they brought up the age-old question regarding whether or not art should be separated from its creator. Many cinema critics have often equated—and justified—Von Trier’s films with the director’s genuine internal issues with despair and self-loathing, which is a devastating remark. However, some of his personal remarks have sparked debate.

Von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 after telling an interviewer that he sympathized with Hitler and compared himself to a Nazi. Despite the fact that the prohibition was only in place for seven years, audiences at Cannes were left perplexed as to why The House That Jack Built was allowed to screen at the festival. Apart from those remarks, Lars von Trier’s film The House That Jack Built has proven to be his most divisive.

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