What Exactly Is Lars Von Trier Trying to Tell Us? 


Lars Von Trier’s new film The House That Jack Built is premiering at Cannes today and while le French will get to see it in full, over in America we’re stuck with the movie’s trailer. And folks, I think this might be a movie about Lars Von Trier himself?

The House That Jack Built tells the 12-year story of Jack, a Washington-based serial killer in the 1970s and 80s, who is so stereotypical he even wears the same aviator glasses that Jeffrey Dahmer wore. The trailer portrays his crimes with a brutal, almost documentarian-style touch, as he smashes in hitchhiker Uma Thurman’s face and asks a tear-eyed Riley Keough to scream if she wants to.

But the film, which Von Trier has said is maybe his last because he “feels like shit,” seems to be as much about art as it is about murder (snore). According to the film synopsis, Jack refers to each of his murders as an “artwork” and in the trailer he says, “Some people think the atrocities we commit in our fiction are those inner desires we cannot commit in our controlled civilization. I don’t agree, I believe heaven and hell are one and the same, the soul belongs to heaven and the body to hell.”

You know who else is someone who makes deeply sadistic, hyper-violent “artworks?” Our pal Von Trier, who puts his female actresses through immense distress as they portray physically and mentally tortured women in movies like Dogville, Antichrist, Nymphomaniac, and, honestly, pretty much all of them! And after years of Von Trier being accused of misogyny, Björk finally revealed in a Facebook post that a “Danish director” had repeatedly sexually harassed her during the filming of Dancer in the Dark, putting Von Trier’s work into a different perspective for those, like me, who have always been a fan while working under the assumption that the work environments were consensually arduous.

You: “The House That Jack Built is a serial killer thriller by Lars Von Trier.”

Me, an intellectual: “The House That Jack Built is a serial killer thriller that works as a metaphor for Lars Von Trier’s role as an auteur torturing women in grotesque circumstances and then getting away with it publicly simply because it’s art.”

Ah, cinema!

Correction: An original version of this post incorrectly stated Björk was in Breaking the Waves. Jezebel regrets the error.

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