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‘The House That Jack Built’ First Reactions: ‘Lars Has Gone Too Far This Time’ As 100 People Walk Out — Cannes

One critic said Matt Dillon and his co-stars are "culpable" for the "vile movie."

"The House That Jack Built"

“The House That Jack Built”

IFC Films

Lars von Trier once had small-screen aspirations for “The House That Jack Built,” but his stab (sorry) at a serial-killing narrative premiered at the Cannes Film Festival Monday night. As promised, the writer-director brought gore to the Croisette; tickets even included a scènes violentes (“explicit violence”) warning. A notable segment of the 2,400-seat Grand Théâtre Lumière audience revolted against what they saw: Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh reported that 100 guests exited in protest, while others on social media estimated half the film-goers departed early:

Although the two-and-a-half hour film screened out of competition — a source of pride for producer Louise Vesth, who donned an “Out of Competition” t-shirt — it was the day’s major festival draw for visiting critics and press, some of whom tweeted that the “vile,” “vomitive” footage “should not have been made.” Nonetheless, the crowd fêted von Trier with a 10-minute standing ovation (Spike Lee earned the same earlier in the day for “BlacKkKlansman”). Afterwards, in the press room, one reporter asked von Trier, “Have you been taking your medication, mister?”

He offered a concise director’s statement in the film’s press notes: “For many years I’ve made films about good women, now I did a film about an evil man.”

Production was difficult on the controversy-courting Dane, who has said he was “full of anxieties and alcohol” while on set in Sweden and Denmark. Von Trier has also had a turbulent relationship with Cannes, where he was once banned following a 2011 press conference in which he — in jest — proclaimed himself a Nazi.

“Crash” Oscar-nominee Matt Dillon stars as the namesake knifeman, gunman, bludgeoner, and strangler. Set during the ’70s, the film tracks five deaths — including characters played by Uma Thurman and Riley Keough — that shaped Jack’s murderous career. In the first trailer, Jack brags that he has lived a punishment-free life, but he fantasizes about notoriety: David Bowie’s “Fame” plays as he cues one victim to scream, and drags another body, wrapped in plastic, attached to his van’s bumper.

In December, nine women alleged that working with von Trier’s production company, Zentropa, led them to be sexually harassed and bullied. Several accusations were directed at Zentropa co-founder and “The House That Jack Built” producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen. Following an investigation, the Danish Working Environment Authority found that Zentropa instituted enough changes in company culture — among them a new code of conduct — to continue operations.

Read a smattering of first reactions from the film below, and IndieWire’s review here.



IFC Films will debut “The House That Jack Built” in U.S. theaters this fall.

Additional reporting by Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson.

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