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The House that Jack Built

This is the latest film from Lars von Trier, the controversial (and very creative) film director who managed (surprise) to create another like film. The film tells the story of the serial killer Mr. Sophistication, played by Matt Dillon, in five incidents, starting with his first killing and following his career through more gruesome murders. It is difficult to describe the film. It functions as a basic horror film, with some incidents creepier than others. Through a continuing (and sometimes fascinating) conversation with Verge (we find out about halfway through who Verge is and his purpose), the film attempts to be a contemplation on several themes, the most prominent of which is the connections between Jack killing and art. von Trier also seems to be taking aim at his critics by offering a detailed look at the roots of misogyny, or the controversy he aroused concerning his views on the Nazis. He also shows a number of clips from previous films when talking about what “art” is. The film sometimes gets lost in the director’s own self-absorption, and the dialog veers into the pedantic. But overall, and as an admitted von Trier fan, I found the film intriguing and thought-provoking, even if it is not one of his best films. It is sometimes funny in a very dark and twisted way. And Matt Dillon gives a sensational, creepy performance. It continues to amaze me how von Trier consistently gets some of the best performances from actors in his films. The film gets a thumbs-up from me. I cannot think of many I would recommend this to except perhaps the most committed von Trier fans; it helps with understanding the film beyond a basic, and sometimes very good, horror film to have followed his career.

About Gary Burkholder

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