Lars Von Trier, the controversial director behind Antichrist, Nymphomaniac, and Breaking The Waves returned with another of his descents into baroque, disturbing material with one of the grossest and hardest to watch films of the year (probably the last decade). Or at least that’s what the audiences in attendance at the Cannes Film Festival would have you believe.
Met with massive walkouts, The House That Jack Built is Von Trier’s serial killer movie but one that, as the director himself put it to The Guardian “celebrates the idea that life is evil and soulless.” It’s hard to not believe why so many people would be angered over seeing it now. In the official Cannes program, a warning appears next to the film’s schedule times: “Certain scenes are likely to offend the sensitivity of the spectators.”
Check out the trailer below:
The film takes place in 1970s USA following serial killer Jack, played by Matt Dillon, and the murders that define his development in this field. Viewers experience the story from Jack’s point of view with each murder described as artwork. As the police close in, he takes more chances and also has revealing conversations about his personal condition with Verge, played by Downfall’s Bruno Ganz (remember the Hitler-Bunker meme? That was him). The House That Jack Built also stars Riley Keough, Siobhan Fallon, Sofie Gråbøl, and Uma Thurman.
The first trailer for The House That Jack Built landed online just hours before its world premiere at the 71st International Cannes Film Festival and opens with images of Dillon smashing Uma Thurman’s face in with a car jack before weeping in the rain while discussing his thoughts on art, heaven and hell. David Bowie’s “Fame” plays as he cues one victim to scream, and drags another body, wrapped in plastic, attached to his van’s bumper. It’s all pretty sickening stuff; definitely not for the faint of heart but for Von Trier, as well as those that came to the defense of the film (there were a few), this is a meditation on evil and the nature of the darkness in humanity.
Cannes theater-goers just weren’t having it. The audiences are known for being very passionate (sometimes accused of being pretentious), prone to booing and standing ovations in equal measure, but the social media reports out of The House That Jack Built describe a sea of walkouts, groans, hisses, and a general discourse of disgust and venomous vitriol. “Von Trier has just gone too far this time,” was a sentiment being passed around by many. There is already a horde of online reactions from the South of France this morning.
We’ve collected many of them for you to check out for yourself:
I’ve never seen anything like this at a film festival. More than 100 people have walked out of Lars von Trier’s ‘The House That Jack Built,’ which depicts the mutilation of women and children. “It’s disgusting,” one woman said on her way out. #Cannes2018 pic.twitter.com/GsBGCoyHEG
— Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) May 14, 2018
The House That Jack Built feels like a suicide note. #Cannes2018
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) May 14, 2018
— Andrea Mandell (@AndreaMandell) May 14, 2018
Lars Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built is an ordeal of gruesomeness and tiresomeness, quite as exasperating as I feared, but leading to what I have to admit is a spectacular horror finale. Review later #Cannes2018 #Cannes71 #Cannes
— Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) May 14, 2018
The most outrageous thing about THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT is that the screenplay is just a "search and replace" gloss on von Trier's much better NYMPHOMANIAC
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) May 15, 2018
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT did have one legitimately excellent moment, when I remembered I had this in my bag pic.twitter.com/q2KhwYuh9e
— Tim Robey (@trim_obey) May 15, 2018
I expected the new Lars Van Trier to be sensationalistic & gruesome. Instead, it’s boring, self-indulgent, & stupid. The real torture is getting through it.
— Miriam Bale (@mimbale) May 15, 2018
— Baz Bamigboye (@BazBam) May 14, 2018
What kind of elitist asshole are you to judge people who didn’t want to see a movie depicting mutilation and extreme violence? I probably would’ve left the room as well (and gone home to watch American Psycho which seems way more subtle) #TheHouseThatJackBuilt
— Jade Domingos (@JadeDomingos) May 15, 2018
Lars Von Trier was given a lifetime ban from Cannes in 2011 for comments that sympathized with Nazis during the press conference of Melancholia. The House That Jack Built was a late addition to Cannes and it played out of competition, but rumors swirled beforehand that many Cannes organizers didn’t want the film playing at the festival at all, and that Cannes President Thierry Fremaux was a huge advocate of lifting the filmmaker’s ban.
It should be said, the film received a standing ovation from those who stuck around till the end. However, Von Trier has also entered back into the public eye for more than just his new film after sexual harassment charges from Bjork were leveled at him recently. Bjork, who starred in Von Trier’s Palmes d’Or-winning film Dancer In The Dark back in 2000 accused the director of bullying her during the filming, and following those allegations, Trier’s own production company Zentropa was accused of systematic degradation and sexual harassment.
IFC Films will debut The House That Jack Built in U.S. theaters sometime this fall.