The House That Jack Built
ALT | Altered States
The Cannes premiere of Lars von Trier’s masterful provocation sparked both bilious outrage and begrudging admiration. In detailing the murderous exploits of unrepentant serial killer Jack a.k.a. Mr. Sophistication (Matt Dillon) in graphic detail, the Peter Pan of enfants terribles also engages in some perverse but poignant self-reflection (if not outright character suicide). As he marches us to a dizzying climax featuring an astonishingly cinematic depiction of damnation, he once again displays his uncanny talent for eliciting performances completely dialed into his film’s disturbing frequencies: ungainly yet predatory, Dillon is deeply unsettling; Uma Thurman slyly underscores the film’s rampant self-awareness; and Riley Keough is heartbreaking in the narrative’s most harrowing stretch.
"That von Trier should wear his pathologies on his sleeve is neither new nor particularly interesting in itself; that he is able to exhibit such a clear-eyed vantage of his doomed, self-destructive existence in a way that manages to be wrenching, sublime and never redemptive is miraculous. Von Trier understands perfectly well that there is no turning back from his trajectory, and, likewise, that the most productive approach to humanism is to represent the world at its worst—suggesting that we can best understand ourselves, our moral standing, by experiencing the sensations generated by seeing the world at its most misbehaved and immoral. Through the unrelentingly inhumane depravity that seethes through every fiber of this hellscape, all I know is that what I saw and felt was filled with an indescribable beauty."—Blake Williams, Filmmaker