matt’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Films mustn’t stop also because of good taste or political correctness. I based the film on the things I‘m interested in and I am specially interested in serial killers. But I researched and then, of course, in all the characters, and specially in Jack, there’s a lot of me. (...) I don’t think I’m a psychopath but that is what they all say. Well, artistic work can be, I’m sure, quite dangerous.”
Lars Von Trier in an interview at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
You can curse Von Trier for his endless ego or his limitless pride. You can blame him for some scenes you watched in his movies that never went out of your mind. You may want to put his head on a stake for some things you deeply believed in until you watched one of his movies. But you’ll be satisfied to watch The House That Jack Built because, here, Lars Von Trier makes fun of himself.
Jack, played by a Matt Dillon that doesn’t need too much to convince the viewers that he is completely psychotic, is almost a mirror of everything we have seen the director doing in his movies. He searches something to fill his void and give his life a purpose. The pleasure is found when he makes his first victim and stares his hands covered in blood: murder becomes his path to scape from all the suffering and pain that reality offers. But Jack is not a random serial killer that takes satisfaction by facing his dead victims. Jack is “Mr. Sophistication”. Through his conversations with Virgil(Bruno Ganz), we meet an artist. A man that seeks to find a sense of creation and beauty in the raw violence he inflicts upon his models. And The House That Jack Built shows us a lot of real art pieces and stories while Jack and Virgil walks into a Hell that would make Dante proud. Jack recognizes that he is totally insane: he is aware of the beast he became. Still, he knows that, finally, he found something to live for and admire about himself.
“Some people claim that the atrocities we commit in our fiction are those inner desires which we cannot commit in our controlled civilization, so they're expressed instead through our art. I don't agree. I believe Heaven and Hell are one and the same. The soul belongs to Heaven and the body to Hell.”
Despite not being a dumb serial killer (and Lars Von Trier shows us that Jack, above all, takes advantage of the situations and the negligence that he receives as gifts), Jack is not a new version of Hannibal Lecter. Lecter will always be ahead of everyone who tries to know his true self. Lecter will always be the player that knows what you are going to do when it’s your turn. Lecter will always be that murderer that gives you goosebumps and, at the same time, fascinates you. Jack is, in essence, pathetic: the circumstances and the discussions that surround him that make everything about his self truly amazing.
In Possession(1981), Anna says, in a remarkable dialogue: “I can’t exist by myself because I’m afraid of myself, because I‘m the maker of my own evil.”
In The House That Jack Built, Jack lives by his own filling his life with the corpses that bring his ultimate project into existence. He is not afraid of himself for being the maker of his own evil: he knows that he plays an important role in the game of life and death and paints it with the most vivid red. Using art, Jack hit the road. And he doesn’t want to come back.
You might still want to close your eyes at some scenes. But, when the credits roll, you laugh. Lars Von Trier told you a joke about himself.