The House That Jack Built (2018)

by | Aug 23, 2023 | Film Reviews, 2010s, Crime, Drama, Featured Films, Horror, Thriller | 0 comments

Unraveling Darkness

 

Release date: 17 October 2018 (France)
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Director: Lars von Trier
Cinematographer: Manuel Alberto Claro
Budget: 8,7 million EURO
Box office: 5,5 million USD

 

In the landscape of cinema, there are films that dare to challenge our perceptions, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and visual representation. “The House That Jack Built” (2018), directed by the controversial visionary Lars von Trier, stands as a testament to such audacious endeavours. A disturbing exploration of the human psyche intertwined with artful craftsmanship, this film has garnered both polarized opinions and intrigued audiences since its release.

 

The House That Jack Built (2018) Unraveling Darkness | Movie Review

 

A Dark Descent into the Mind: Storyline and Themes

“The House That Jack Built” embarks on an unconventional journey into the mind of a serial killer, Jack, played by the enigmatic Matt Dillon. Spanning across five ‘incidents,’ the film delves deep into Jack’s psyche, offering a disturbingly intimate portrayal of his twisted mind and grotesque actions. The narrative is framed as a retrospective conversation between Jack and a mysterious guide named Verge, portrayed by Bruno Ganz.

The film’s intricate structure has drawn comparisons to Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” with each incident representing a circle of hell that Jack descends into. This metaphoric alignment adds an extra layer of complexity to the story, inviting viewers to analyze the allegorical dimensions of Jack’s journey. Von Trier masterfully weaves together these layers, constantly blurring the line between reality and the hallucinatory landscapes of Jack’s mind.

The themes explored in the film are undeniably provocative and unsettling. Von Trier dives into questions of art, morality, and the human condition, often challenging the audience’s ethical compass. The juxtaposition of the brutality of Jack’s acts with his keen awareness of art and architecture creates a dissonant, thought-provoking experience.

 

The House That Jack Built (2018) Unraveling Darkness | Movie Review

 

Behind the Scenes: Filming and Cast

Lars von Trier’s directorial signature is imprinted throughout the film, demonstrating his affinity for experimental storytelling techniques. The cinematography, helmed by Manuel Alberto Claro, mirrors the tumultuous emotional journey of the protagonist. The camera moves with deliberate unease, capturing the distressing beauty of the narrative’s macabre elements. The visual dichotomy between the grotesque and the aesthetically pleasing is evident, blurring the lines between horror and artistry.

Matt Dillon’s portrayal of Jack is a standout performance that demands recognition. Dillon’s ability to navigate the complex emotional landscape of the character is commendable, as he effortlessly transitions from a cold-blooded killer to an introspective artist. His charisma and unsettling charm are central to the film’s uneasy magnetism.

Bruno Ganz, in his final role before his passing, brings gravitas to the character of Verge. His exchanges with Jack provide a philosophical underpinning that guides viewers through the labyrinthine narrative. Ganz’s presence is a testament to the film’s ability to attract remarkable talent.

 

The House That Jack Built (2018) Unraveling Darkness | Movie Review

 

Reception and Controversy: A Box Office Perspective

“The House That Jack Built” was met with a polarized reception upon its release. Some critics hailed it as a provocative masterpiece that unflinchingly explores the darkest corners of humanity. Others, however, criticized its excessive violence and graphic content, accusing the film of sensationalism.

Box office performance, while not a primary gauge of a film’s artistic merit, remains noteworthy. “The House That Jack Built” was released in limited theatres and garnered attention due to its controversial nature and the reputation of its director. The film’s relatively modest box office returns can be attributed to its niche appeal and the discomfort it provoked in mainstream audiences.

 

The House That Jack Built (2018) Unraveling Darkness | Movie Review

 

Final Verdict

“The House That Jack Built” is an ambitious cinematic endeavour that dares to challenge conventional storytelling norms. Lars von Trier’s audacious exploration of a serial killer’s mind through art, architecture, and allegory is commendable. The film’s thought-provoking themes, coupled with Matt Dillon’s captivating performance, make it an intriguing experience for those willing to engage with its unsettling narrative.

However, the film’s unrelenting brutality and disturbing imagery may prove too much for some viewers, diminishing its accessibility. Additionally, the complexity of the narrative structure could potentially alienate those seeking a more straightforward cinematic experience.

In conclusion, “The House That Jack Built” secures a solid 7 out of 10. While not without its flaws, the film’s boldness and its ability to provoke introspection and debate make it a commendable addition to the realm of psychological horror cinema. It’s a journey not for the faint of heart, but for those who appreciate cinema that pushes boundaries and challenges perceptions, it’s an invitation into the dark recesses of the human psyche that’s hard to resist.

 

My Rating: 7/10

 

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