The Ten Best Films Of 2018: No. 3 - “The House That Jack Built”

Matt Dillon (L) and director Lars von Trier pose at Nikki Beach for the Perrier Jouet celebration of 'The House that Jack Built' on May 14, 2018 in Cannes, France.

In at number three we have Lars von Trier's disturbing and hilarious The House That Jack Built.

Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier is perhaps the most controversial filmmaker in the current mainstream of cinema. His output is always approached with confusion, upset, excitement, and reception is always mixed. He has made some terrific films; 2000’s Dancer in the Dark and 2003’s Dogville are stunning, heartbreaking pieces of work, the former of which angered and disgusted some critics while touching the very heart of others. The director is categorised by this divide, and has never shied away from making the films he wants to make. He has long been a provocateur, and he has found himself shocking audiences more and more as his career has progressed.

His most arresting work has loosely been coined “The Depression Trilogy”, which is made up of 2009’s Antichrist, 2011’s Melancholia and 2013’s Nymphomaniac Vols. I & II. The first of these films features the director’s most graphic and difficult imagery, whereas Melancholia is much more visually tame, and was received incredibly well by critics. Nymphomaniac was much more divisive, with some arguing it as a self-indulgent shock-fest, and others a fascinating and compelling odyssey of addiction. The House That Jack Built has caused a similar stir, but has definitely been condemned much more than his previous work. Fortunately, some recognise and appreciate its many merits. 

Businessman Leonid Ogarev (L) and screenwriter Jenle Hallund attend the Moscow premiere of The House That Jack Built horror film written and directed by Danish film director and...Businessman Leonid Ogarev (L) and screenwriter Jenle Hallund attend the Moscow premiere of The House That Jack Built horror film written and directed by Danish film director and...

The narrative centres around serial killer Jack (Matt Dillon) who begins recounting incidents over the course of a twelve-year period to an accompanying stranger, Verge (Bruno Ganz). The film is incredibly graphic, and there is one particular sequence which has caused a lot of controversy. Von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival a few years back for making anti-semitic comments, but was welcomed back to premiere The House That Jack Built. During this sequence, many headed towards the doors in disgust; he was back. Although many left the screening, the film received a standing ovation, as is standard with von Trier’s work. It’s easy to see why many couldn’t stomach the sequence, as it is horrific. However, it serves a purpose, and certainly isn’t gratuitous. 

Most have focused on this particular sequence, but fail to address that this is a hilariously twisted dark-comedy. The humour often lands, and there are moments that will ignite hysterical laughter in audiences. It’s such a daring, bold and creative piece of work, offering fans of the filmmaker an unforgettable experience. There is a lot to dissect here, but also a lot to enjoy - bizarrely enough. The House That Jack Built makes for entertaining, invigorating and compelling viewing, and absolutely should not be missed. Here, he provides us with his most personal and ambitious work to date.

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