Every year, you hear about that one movie that prompted walkouts from audiences at international film festivals. It stokes your curiosity up to no end. Did someone figure out yet another way of getting under your skin? Show a fictional serial killer kill in an even more creative manner?
If you’re expecting a lot of nonsensical butchering, don’t. If you’re anticipating a structured screenplay that lets the creepy atmosphere do all the heavy lifting, don’t. Don’t approach this movie with that mindset, because you don’t know Lars von Trier and his art cinema (neither do I). The House That Jack Built does not intend to be a benchmark in macabre. Its a character study into the psyche of a serial killer. Played by the brilliant Matt Dillion, who makes perfect use of his natural dead-eyed stare, Jack is both the co-narrator and the perpetrator in this story. He details five killings in no chronological order. There’s rarely a semblance of continuity – you don’t know the victims or their life history. It’s “Victim X, meet Jack, and die” type of deal. You probably won’t whimper at every mark’s current predicament, but that sense of dread you get every time you see a new woman on-screen doesn’t waiver.
Five victims for a run-time of 2 hours and 32 minutes makes you wonder – what’s eating up the chunk of the footage? Majority of the runtime is devoted to non-sequential build-up shots and some philosophical back and forth between Jack and someone called Verge (gravelly voiced and played by Bruno Ganz). The debate is quite fascinating in parts. Get ready for some architectural lessons, experience the fascinating psychoanalysis of a man walking under streetlamps, get a detailed insight into the World War 2’s Stuka and the effect its diving sound had on helpless martyrs. My money’s on you twiddling your thumbs, waiting for Jack to kill the next dumb bitch.
The mindset you need to dig this movie is not the same one you have when you’re expecting a gorefest. It’s not for the everyday audience. Which does not mean it’s for the high and mighty either. Just appreciate the parts and disregard the whole.