Matt Dillon’s crazed architect recalls Lars von Trier’s grisly greatest hits in the director’s perversely timed black comedy
In 2011, I interviewed Lars von Trier at his Zentropa offices in Denmark. I told him how much I liked Anti-Christ and Melancholia, while also confessing that I absolutely hated The Idiots. “That’s OK,” he replied, “as long as you really hated it!” I remembered that comment when reading Von Trier’s response to the walkouts that greeted The House That Jack Built when it premiered at Cannes in May. Asked how he felt about the reaction to his impressively grotesque latest, he deadpanned: “I’m not sure if they hated it enough.”
It’s easy to bridle at Von Trier’s films, particularly when they feature moments of New York Ripper-style gore, button-pushing provocations (“Children, the most sensitive subject of all!” says one character), duckling mutilation (nb: no animals were harmed), and grotesque human sculptures that resemble the shock-art of the Chapman brothers. But the prevailing atmosphere of The House That Jack Built is one of sardonic, self-reflexive disdain. Von Trier has suggested that this may be his final film, and you can certainly read it as a sort of last will and testament, with an audaciously ridiculous metaphysical punchline.