Love or hate Lars von Trier, you have to admire his ability to take criticism. One of the worst traits in some filmmakers is their inability to learn from their mistakes and grow as an artist. Earlier this week, von Trier’s The House That Jack Built became the talk of Cannes as hundreds of people walked out of the film, pointing to brutal sequences involving child mutilation. Without having seen the film, it all looked and sounded to me as if von Trier forced his critics into a challenge, one in which they unknowingly lost by exiting the theater. In fact, it sounds as if he was hoping for an even harsher critique, and that its newfound hype isn’t what he was hoping for.
“[The walkouts and audible groans] made me very relaxed,” von Trier told Cineuropa. “It’s quite important not to be loved by everybody, because then you’ve failed. I’m not sure if they hated it enough, though. If it gets too popular, I’ll have a problem.
“But the reception seemed just about right, I think,” added von Trier. “In any case, this one was a pleasure to write. I don’t know too much about serial killers, but I do know a bit about psychopaths. And I’ve never killed anyone myself… If I do, it will probably be a journalist.”
I love how he continues to poke and prod us journalists, which will incite some into a furious rage (once again, giving von Trier victory over them). It’s true that von Trier is just as pretentious as anyone who would watch a movie in a tuxedo, but it’s hard to not align with his thinking. He’s an artist and his works have a personal agenda. With The House That Jack Built, which IFC Films will release here in the States later this year, it sounds as if he’s kicking dirt in the direction of critics. The irony here is that he’s put himself in a win-win position. If a critic enjoys the film, he wins. If they hate it, well, he’s fine with the criticism, and also got exactly what he wanted – a rise out of the writer. For us standing on the sidelines, this is just something super fun to write about. Watch for release news as it comes in.
Uma Thurman (Kill Bill), Bruno Ganz (Downfall), and Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road) also star with South Korean actor, Yu Ji-tae, best known to us genre fans as the antagonist in Park Chan-wook’s 2003 hardboiled thriller Oldboy.
“The House That Jack Built takes place in 1970s USA. We follow the highly intelligent Jack through 5 incidents and are introduced to the murders that define Jack’s development as a serial killer. We experience the story from Jack’s point of view. He views each murder as an artwork in itself, even though his dysfunction gives him problems in the outside world. Despite the fact that the final and inevitable police intervention is drawing ever near (which both provokes and puts pressure on Jack) he is – contrary to all logic – set on taking greater and greater chances. Along the way we experience Jack’s descriptions of his personal condition, problems and thoughts through a recurring conversation with the unknown Verge – a grotesque mixture of sophistry mixed with an almost childlike self-pity and in-depth explanations of, for Jack, dangerous and difficult maneuvers.”