Lars Von Trier's Latest Bloodbath

by Tori Adams

 Courtesy of The Cannes Film Festival

Courtesy of The Cannes Film Festival

Lars von Trier’s latest film, The House That Jack Built was premiered last Monday night at the Cannes Film Festival. Reactions to the film ranged from a standing ovation to a mass walkout of roughly “100 people,” fleeing the theater in disgust at the obscene content. Notorious for his bloodthirsty style, von Trier’s latest work is no exception, as it unapologetically pictures bodies being mutilated by a misogynistic serial killer. To paint a picture of some of the absurd, slapstick violence featured in this film, one scene depicts a women’s breast cut off and turned into a coin purse. Too much? In another, a child’s head is blown off. Are we disturbed yet?

Matt Dillon stars in the film as a “creative” murderer who believes that killing is a kind of art, and will go to extreme lengths to murder in the most graphic of ways. Dillon's provocative role puts him in a precarious position. Many have argued that he, along with the rest of the cast, is culpable for achieving such ruthless imagery. This is definitely one of Dillon's darkest roles to date.

The film marks a big return for von Trier. The House That Jack Built is von Trier’s first film to be featured at Cannes, after having gotten banned (temporarily) in 2011 for some crude Hitler jokes. Once again, Von Trier proves that he does not shy away from controversy, leaving viewers asking, 'Did von Trier go too far with this one?' Maybe not...

 Courtesy of BBC Culture

Courtesy of BBC Culture

On one end, this film forces viewers to witness the most disgusting and heart-wrenching examples of murder. On another, it gives us a window into mental illness and perhaps von Trier’s own tortured psyche. He has openly battled depression and channeled his struggles into art and film-making in the past. So, are we really that surprised by these depictions? Von Trier has made a name for himself through displaying violence and dark-comedy in many of his films, this one does not seem to be much of an outlier.

It serves as a reminder that film and art are meant to challenge the viewers’ expectations and realities. Whether we are left with repulsion or reverence for von Trier, he dared to go places in this film that elicited exactly what he wanted - an intense, and heated response.


Written by Molly Simon