“The Divine Comedy of The House That Jack Built

“After being banned from the Cannes Film Festival and finishing his Depression Trilogy, Lars von Trier returned from a five-year hiatus with The House That Jack Built. The film follows a sadistic, failed architect named Jack (Matt Dillon) who recalls his murders to the ancient Roman poet Virgil (Bruno Ganz), as the pair make their way through Hell. To Virgil’s disgust, Jack sees these incidents as misunderstood works of art.

When the film premiered at Cannes, it prompted a one-hundred-person walkout and a ten-minute standing ovation. While the festival is known for its dramatic receptions, The House That Jack Built is, indeed, a polarizing film. It’s is either the nail in the coffin for von Trier’s career or the darkest comedy of 2018. Depends on who you ask.
As Ryan Hollinger puts it in the video essay belowThe House That Jack Built is what you get when you give a serial killer two and a half hours to gush about how great they are. On paper that sounds like a recipe for disaster. But on the screen, the iffy conceit materializes as a mocking character study of the kind of ego-trip that thinks it’s so charming and clever that it can get away anything.
Ultimately, The House that Jack Built is a film that turns a monster into a punchline. And if you let go of seriousness and pretension, the film reveals itself as an absurd, self-effacing, and divinely funny comedy.”    –Meg Shields, Film School Rejects, July 25, 2020
Check out our original post on The House that Jack Built (2018) here.