How much does Lars von Trier dislike women? The answer is a lot. In fact, it may be even more than Quentin Tarantino. The House That Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as a serial killer, recounting 5 murders he’s committed to a person named Verge.
There’s so much to unpack here.
Visually, the film is beautiful. But, that’s to be expected of a Lars von Trier film.
Script-wise, there is a clear hatred here. This film can repeatedly be described as “Lars von Trier’s detached depiction of a serial killer”, but there’s only so much “detaching” one can do when writing a screenplay. Whether we like it or not, one’s own thoughts and opinions will always leak in. And that, unfortunately, is what happens here. The dislike of women is shown not only in the brutality of the kills, but also in certain dialogue between Jack and Verge. Verge states that the first victim is a “seemingly unbearable woman”. Jack refers to one of the women as “Simple” even though her name is Jacqueline, which is the way that he views her. Then, there’s a whole section that starts off with “When you’re born male, you’re also born guilty. Why is it always the man’s fault?” This line is then immediately followed with “Women are always the victims, right? And men, they’re always criminals.” This dialogue then paired with the violent and disturbing images of women being murdered by the main character made my stomach churn.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: but, Kristen, Jack gets what’s coming to him in the end. And, yes, he does. But, that’s not enough. Jack never sees what he did as wrong. He is never apologetic for it. So, his ultimate demise means much less.
Putting all of the above aside, did I like this film? Well, the answer isn’t so simple. I liked the story that was being told. I like the interludes that help illustrate what Jack is trying to articulate. I don’t however like the heavy handedness of the title The House That Jack Built and the repeated suggestions about what that title may mean or may symbolize. I mean, for god’s sake, the film begins with a woman stranded by her car, with a broken jack. She then goes on to talk about how she figured everybody had a jack. Then, throughout the film, Jack is working on building a house, but he is constantly tearing it down because he can’t seem to find the right material for the house. My other frustration is that Lars von Trier comes off as very full of himself with this film, and that is always something that puts a bad taste in my mouth.
So, did I like the film? I guess I did. Would I choose to watch it again? Absolutely not. That’s enough realistic brutality for a life time.