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PETA Defends Lars von Trier’s ‘The House That Jack Built’ Against Backlash Over Graphic Animal Mutilation Scene

PETA assures critics of Lars von Trier's serial killer drama that no animal was harmed during production.

Matt Dillon The House That Jack Built

“The House That Jack Built”

IFC Films

[Editor’s Note: This article includes spoilers for Lars von Trier’s “The House That Jack Built.”]

Lars von Trier’s “The House That Jack Built” is the most notorious movie of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Numerous critics and audience members reacted in horror to von Trier’s depiction of violence against women and children, but the one scene that proved most divisive features the movie’s titular serial killer as a child using a pair of pliers to cut a duckling’s leg off. Jack places the duck back in a pond with one leg and proceeds to watch it drown.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has issued a statement in reaction to the duck controversy, and the group is coming to the defense of Lars von Trier. Lisa Lange, PETA Senior Vice President, praises von Trier for relying on “movie magic” in order to direct the scene without having to use or harm a real animal.

PETA confirms von Trier used a fake silicon leg for the duck and that no animal was harmed during the making of “The House That Jack Built.” The group also explains that the scene is accurate in depicting a young serial killer. Although the mutilation will prove sickening for many viewers, PETA argues that it accurately shows how serial killers get their start at a young age by torturing animals.

The official statement from PETA reads:

Following numerous calls about a scene in Lars von Trier’s film ‘The House That Jack Built’ in which a young child uses a pair of pliers to cut a duckling’s leg off, PETA has confirmed that the ‘leg’ was created using movie magic and silicone parts. While depictions of gratuitous violence like this may leave viewers sickened, it’s true that serial killers, like the character in the film, often get their start by first torturing animals, making the scene all the more realistic and disturbing. PETA is also happy to report that the images of tigers in the movie were from stock footage, yet again proving that there’s no need to use live wild animals in productions, thanks to the many humane alternatives being embraced by filmmakers today.

IFC Films will release von Trier’s “The House That Jack Built” in U.S. theaters this fall.

Additional reporting by Jamie Righetti.

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