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Von Trier gives gore-filled middle finger to his haters

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Issue 2634
Holding a mirror up to a sick society?
Holding a mirror up to a sick society?

Be prepared for an utterly nightmarish descent with director Lars Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built.

It is terrifying in its use of audacious imagery to shock, but most of all to make you think. Set in mid town US in the 1970s we follow Jack (Matt Dillon) as he recalls his serial killing spree of 12 years. The narrative is divided into five incidents with the director’s trademark of digressive interludes, mostly shot in edgy documentary-style realism.

Jack expresses his narcissistic, self-pitying sociopathic musings with a mostly unseen individual Verge.

This pitch black comedy about a serial killer with OCD soon gives way to an unrelenting hell on earth. The violence is often sickening but never banal.

The screen pulsates with peculiar philosophical juxtapositions and political insights.

Jack’s self-pitying misogynistic rants, his culling of a family wearing Trumpian red caps. It points out how, in the anonymous wasteland of America, no one cares for the plight of the innocent.

Then, suddenly, the film opens up further with sharp commentary on totalitarian societies and their wanton use of the destruction of humans.

This merely mirrors Jack’s own diabolical behaviour.

Von Trier, cast out of the Cannes filmmaking fraternity for several years, has lost none of his satirical bite and social commentary. This seems to be lost on most film reviewers who merely see this film as an excursion into his “wicked” mind.

For fans of a cinema of ideas Von Triers epic works are still necessary viewing, even if this time it’s looking between your fingers at the screen.

Stephen Philip

Directed by Lars Von Trier. From 14 December

The House That Jack Built

This US series comes to Britain on 14 December. It’s based on the stories of Stephen King and fans of the author will not be disappointed.

Set in King’s idealised US East Coast town of Castle Rock, the series contains callbacks and references to some of his most famous work. This should not be a bar to enjoying a series that improves rapidly after a slow start.

A prisoner with a dark past who has lost his voice is found in a cage underneath Shawshank Prison. A death row lawyer is lured back to town by an anonymous phone call after leaving years previously.

Weirdness and horror ensues.

Although it lacks the grand narrative sweep of some of King’s work such as The Stand, this is no bad thing. A serialised form could be a drawback for an adaptation, but Castle Rock is its own thing and comes into its own later on.

The series comes to Britain via the internet behemoth Amazon’s Prime service, although it may be available elsewhere.

Based on the universe created by Stephen King
On Amazon Prime



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