Crimes of an egregious nature are pondered in Lars von Trier’s latest polarising act of provocation The House That Jack Built. With its episodic structure and verbose voiceover narration, this pitch-black portrait of a serial killer (played with gusto by Matt Dillon) is immediately reminiscent of the director’s 2013 sex addiction opus Nymphomaniac. But where the earlier film was gleeful in its exploration of taboo impulses, Jack is a lacerating self-portrait, in which the filmmaker reckons with his reputation as modern cinema’s preeminent preening narcissist and tormentor of women. But the manner in which he draws parallels between himself and his deranged protagonist is disappointingly heavy-handed, aside from a nerve-wracking early scene depicting Jack’s crippling OCD. And as a satirical thriller, it’s shamelessly derivative – the icily detached depiction of unfathomable atrocity is heavily indebted to American Psycho, while Jack reveals himself as a close cousin of Hannibal Lecter in his descriptions of murder as a form of high art. Nevertheless, it’s ghoulishly compelling and mordantly amusing.
The House That Jack Built | Directed by Lars von Trier (Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden 2018) with Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz. Starts November 29.
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