The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

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Never Cursed
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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#301 Post by Never Cursed » Tue Apr 09, 2019 12:28 pm

IFC quietly dumped the unrated Director's Cut of this on iTunes, in the form of an extra made available when you rent/buy the R-Rated version. This is the first and only, as far as I know, Region A-friendly release of the director's cut since the theatrical showing, so those of you who can't import the Artificial Eye blu can now watch this fantastic film without cuts.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#302 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Apr 09, 2019 12:30 pm

An extra? Lol, so I'm assuming it isn't eligible for Movies Anywhere? What a fucking mess, IFC.

Update: Amazon has it as a separate purchase, and it's $19.99, substantially more than the regular release at $19.99.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It looks like it's also separate on Vudu, at $12.99. And $15.99 on Google Play. So there are places to get it. But the film in either format isn't eligible for Movies Anywhere so make sure where you buy it will be compatible with where you want to watch it.

LAST UPDATE: I just purchased it on Vudu since it was the cheapest of any of the services and can confirm once and for all that the purchase doesn't carry over to any other services through Movies Anywhere or Ultraviolet. It just lives in Vudu, I can't find it in FandangoNOW, iTunes, Google Play, etc. Guessing that's an IFC limitation. Also, this isn't in 4K anywhere, also likely something IFC didn't bother to do. Oh well, at least the director's cut is out... baby steps.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#303 Post by tenia » Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:03 am

I don't think the movie has been finished at 4K nor graded in HDR, so I'm not surprised it's nowhere to be found in 4K.


I watched the movie on BD a few weeks ago, and most of the feedbacks above quite echo my view on this. I didn't like it so much, but didn't dislike it really either. There are some interesting elements, it's quite beautifully shot and Dillon is fantastic, but its scenario seems to only have for a goal to mostly troll the viewer in a very nihilistic way. Jack obviously is an unreliable megalomaniac narrator and it seemed as if I spent most of the movie facepalming myself by what was happening on-screen (though I didn't care much about the display of violence etc, because I've always looked at this kind of cinematic violence in a detached way).

The movie is playing with that, though, with Verge often questioning Jack's stories ("most of the women you're describing seems to be stupid" - which is quite true), but at 2h30 long, the movie seems very self-indulging too. It also can be hard sometimes to know if the scenario itself has plothole-style tropes or if it's just Jack being stupid or twisting the facts.

I'm not sure what to do with the ending though.
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Is Jack finally punished by falling into the blackest pit, ie he gets punished as much as he made people suffer, or is he, in a way, escaping punishment by ending in a very abstract situation from which we don't know much about ? It felt to me as if we was, in any case, punished and thus his actions were condemned, but retrospectively, I wonder.
As for the Verge conversations, they seemed to me quite similar to the discussions with Seligman in Nymphomaniac, which also often seemed to me like pompous pseudo-analytical nonsense, though I'd take Verge's one as less serious and probably more in tone with Jack's high view of himself (while he actually doesn't seem that smart at all).

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#304 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Apr 10, 2019 9:22 am

Tenia, having looked into the camera it was shot with, you're right. My bad.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#305 Post by Big Ben » Wed Apr 10, 2019 9:41 am

Tenia in regards to your question:
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I took it to mean he's condemned himself to the lowest pits. One of the interesting things is that Verge actually says that Jack isn't supposed to be on this level and that they still have a ways to go. Jack inquires about the steps and Verge tells him that they lead back up but that he has to make it around the pit to get there. Jack willingly and consciously chooses to try and get back up and well...falls in.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#306 Post by tenia » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:28 am

mfunk9786 wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 9:22 am
Tenia, having looked into the camera it was shot with, you're right. My bad.
I had to check myself again, so no problem. Plus, it's not as if plenty of 2K-finished movies were released in UHD...

Thanks Big Ben for the precision. I tend to think it's indeed the way it is supposed to be understood, but thinking about it, I wondered if there wasn't another way.
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Ultimately, it might simply be another cocky move from Jack, who indeed willingly goes ahead despite Verge's warnings that nobody managed to go all the way around (IIRC), except this is the one that broke the camel's back and lost him for good.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#307 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:51 am

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I think it's pretty clear that Jack has tried to outsmart the very concept of morality itself, and met his match when faced with the consequences of his actions. The film is actually, like much of von Trier's work, a very moral one - presenting to us someone who considers himself above the inherent obligation to lead a moral life, and is literally locked out of heaven, Bruno Mars-style, even though it doesn't even cross his mind that he won't be able to wriggle his way out of his predicament and get up there himself on the strength of his own smarts and ingenuity. Von Trier presents a reality where those things are absolutely worthless when one meets their maker. It's quite the rebuttal to the far right wing "facts and logic above personal morals" mindset that's so pervasive in recent years.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#308 Post by tenia » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:16 pm

That was my original reading too, and the one I believe to be the most likely to be intended by LVT.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#309 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jun 17, 2019 3:41 am

I am still working up the nerve to sit down with this film, but I recently picked up the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell graphic novel From Hell and was wondering if there are intended to be a few conscious allusions to it in the Von Trier film? In particular the 1922 prologue with Inspector Aberline, retired to Brighton on a police pension, speaks to his companion of the house bought with the career that would have been cut short if he had brought the high profile figure with Royal connections to justice as the prime suspect in the murders, as "The House That Jack Built".

And also in the Mary Kelly murder that comprises the entirety of Chapter 10 ("The Best of All Tailors") there are a couple of moments of clinical evisceration that sound similar to some of the things that I have heard about the most notorious scene in this film.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#310 Post by Nasir007 » Mon Jun 17, 2019 7:55 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Jun 17, 2019 3:41 am
I am still working up the nerve to sit down with this film, but I recently picked up the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell graphic novel From Hell and was wondering if there are intended to be a few conscious allusions to it in the Von Trier film? In particular the 1922 prologue with Inspector Aberline, retired to Brighton on a police pension, speaks to his companion of the house bought with the career that would have been cut short if he had brought the high profile figure with Royal connections to justice as the prime suspect in the murders, as "The House That Jack Built".

And also in the Mary Kelly murder that comprises the entirety of Chapter 10 ("The Best of All Tailors") there are a couple of moments of clinical evisceration that sound similar to some of the things that I have heard about the most notorious scene in this film.
It is a tough film but its reputation of being unwatchable is really exaggerated. There is violence but it is fleeting and not sustained.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#311 Post by zedz » Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:26 pm

swo17 wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:36 am
dda1996a wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 2:11 am
all the calls of misogyny are extremely wrongheaded
I mean, all of the female victims in this film are presented as being pretty stupid, simple, or clueless (and one of them even asking for it) but the film directly addresses this. As Roger Ebert always said, it's not what a film's about but how it's about it.
Having now seen this film, this is strictly correct, but I think this just makes it a deliberately misogynistic film (by a filmmaker who may or may not be a misogynist based on this evidence.) I think it's still fair game to call the work misogynist, because the work doesn't offer any 'outside' to the misogyny it depicts.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#312 Post by swo17 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 12:34 am

Is the film misogynistic or just Jack? And do von Trier's own faults (or not) in this area change the answer to that question?

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#313 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:39 am

zedz wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:26 pm
swo17 wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:36 am
dda1996a wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 2:11 am
all the calls of misogyny are extremely wrongheaded
I mean, all of the female victims in this film are presented as being pretty stupid, simple, or clueless (and one of them even asking for it) but the film directly addresses this. As Roger Ebert always said, it's not what a film's about but how it's about it.
Having now seen this film, this is strictly correct, but I think this just makes it a deliberately misogynistic film (by a filmmaker who may or may not be a misogynist based on this evidence.) I think it's still fair game to call the work misogynist, because the work doesn't offer any 'outside' to the misogyny it depicts.
The exterior to this misogyny should be the viewer's own developed mind and sense of morality. Also, the inherent humanity of the women depicted. Yes, they are seen through Jack's eyes, but that doesn't make them valueless by any stretch.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#314 Post by Never Cursed » Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:10 pm

zedz wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:26 pm
swo17 wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:36 am
dda1996a wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 2:11 am
all the calls of misogyny are extremely wrongheaded
I mean, all of the female victims in this film are presented as being pretty stupid, simple, or clueless (and one of them even asking for it) but the film directly addresses this. As Roger Ebert always said, it's not what a film's about but how it's about it.
Having now seen this film, this is strictly correct, but I think this just makes it a deliberately misogynistic film (by a filmmaker who may or may not be a misogynist based on this evidence.) I think it's still fair game to call the work misogynist, because the work doesn't offer any 'outside' to the misogyny it depicts.
Besides what swo and mfunk have said, how does Verge not function as an "outside" to Jack's misogyny? He directly calls it out (including in the sequence you are almost certainly referring to) and expresses nothing but contempt for Jack's actions and thought processes through the whole film.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#315 Post by tenia » Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:24 pm

Verge indeed seems to serve as a moral proxy for the viewer, calling out Jack on the way he depicts his female victims and possibly, by extension, what the movie is doing through Jack's narrative. It did seem to me it was a clear "outside" for the viewer to understand how and what to feel about Jack.
He doesn't interact often, sure, but it seemed quite clear to me he was the way for Von Trier to give us an escape door to Jack's immorality.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#316 Post by swo17 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:46 pm

One might also ask: What is the point of having one character in a film do and say horrendous things and then another character call him out on it? Are they perhaps two different sides to von Trier himself, i.e. one part that thinks the despicable things he depicts in his films are funny (and he can't stop himself from telling the jokes), but another part that grieves over the real-world analogues to such acts? Or more likely it's a lot more complicated than that--an ugly ball of noble, vain, and contemptuous threads that form the heart of von Trier's interests as an artist.

It seems to me that the purpose of calling a work misogynistic is to dismiss it, but to do that here is to erase part of the picture, the part that I and others I imagine find most fascinating

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#317 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:03 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:39 am
zedz wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:26 pm
swo17 wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:36 am

I mean, all of the female victims in this film are presented as being pretty stupid, simple, or clueless (and one of them even asking for it) but the film directly addresses this. As Roger Ebert always said, it's not what a film's about but how it's about it.
Having now seen this film, this is strictly correct, but I think this just makes it a deliberately misogynistic film (by a filmmaker who may or may not be a misogynist based on this evidence.) I think it's still fair game to call the work misogynist, because the work doesn't offer any 'outside' to the misogyny it depicts.
The exterior to this misogyny should be the viewer's own developed mind and sense of morality. Also, the inherent humanity of the women depicted. Yes, they are seen through Jack's eyes, but that doesn't make them valueless by any stretch.
This is key, as is the detail that Jack has a clear antisocial personality disorder (previously called sociopathy). His lack of emotion allows him to prey more easily on the "flaws" of his victims, but these women's vulnerabilities come from organic components of humanity, and I don't think von Trier is judging them to be weak. The impact of emotional decisions, morals, and trust that the characters consider and help lead to their deaths may be "flaws" in the sense that humans are fallible but von Trier mocks Jack by giving him his own handicaps in OCD and reveals his inflated ego to be just as problematic, which ultimately leads him to multiple instances of being dismantled from his false perception of control and invincibility, and reveals his sense of superiority to be a solipsistic lie to compensate for his own inability to connect to humanity. That Jack continues to up the ante to ridiculous proportions, leaving himself vulnerable by allowing his own ego to dilute his intelligence (the personality trait he cherishes most as his definitive quality, and that he believes stems from his anti-emotional logic, making him a supreme being) by the end for the sake of obtaining some sense of feeling that has been muted by tolerance to his own antisocial crimes, is the most pathetic fate von Trier could conceive for him in all its irony and hypocrisy. The joke is on Jack, who is still driven to the same fate through the imperfections of being human. He's not special at all, but is just like everyone else, except that he's done more harm and thus must go to hell - though even in this fate von Trier robs him of any importance. von Trier doesn't even allow him to be this powerful evil figure that's scary to us, which is when we get these laughable moments like the OCD-driven cleanups.

I think there's definitely a self-reflexivity to this work, with von Trier identifying with Jack's megalomania, struggles with emotional access and stability, and perhaps pieces of toxic masculinity, or at least posing the question of his intentions with his films (are they due to some suppressed darker processes in him specifically, or all men?); while also acknowledging and condemning himself to the status of being unimportant in the scheme of the world, regardless of his own delusions of grandeur admitted here. The film seems to be a kind of confession, but one that has a strangely strong sense of humor for all its dark self-flagellation that brings it to a more esoteric and complex place, and not only saves the film but elevates it to greatness.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#318 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:21 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:39 am
The exterior to this misogyny should be the viewer's own developed mind and sense of morality. Also, the inherent humanity of the women depicted. Yes, they are seen through Jack's eyes, but that doesn't make them valueless by any stretch.
I don't think that's a valid argument. A viewer's personal sense of morality is not an intrinsic part of a work of art. Nobody (as far as I know) claims that The Birth of a Nation is not racist because we as an audience know that racism is bad.

My point was that the female characters are entirely seen through Jack's eyes, and, as characters, they are thoroughly misogynist creations. Also, as characters, the film offers no 'outside' to their depiction - i.e. no indications within their narratives that they are not exactly as idiotic as Jack depicts them. Jack may not be consciously constructing his narratives with this in mind (basically, everybody in his story - even himself - is an idiot), but Von Trier is.

The Verge argument is a little stronger, but in practice I feel he's a weak presence and I don't think it adds up to a lot more than mfunk's argument. We get nearly two and a half hours of the World According to Jack, and five minutes of Verge (and Von Trier) winking at the audience to say "we know he's crazy, right?" (I also find it very hard to accept Verge as somehow objectively external to Jack, but see below for more on this.) But the larger message of that construction of the film is that Von Trier really isn't interested in anybody apart from Jack. Everybody else, even Verge, is ultimately just a prop. The women in the story are depicted misogynistically, and having a character at one point say "hey, this story is misogynistic!" doesn't really add or subtract from that. It's at best the filmmaker's transparent figleaf.

And this is fine, because I see the film primarily as a provocation. The supposedly "philosophical" elements are pretentious and / or facile - which is also fine, as they're demonstrating how callow Jack is. To me, the Jack / Verge conversations didn't really come across as a dialogue or a grapple with meaningful ideas, as Verge basically just bats the nonsense back at Jack.

If the film is a provocation, it's one specifically tailored to the #MeToo era (Von Trier scans the horizon for the latest sacred cow, and finds it right in front of his face). The biggest giveaway is Jack's clueless incel-esque whine about how "men are always the victims." That's pretty clunky as satire, but when you compare it to Von Trier's clueless whine in the supporting interview about how he was the victim of a rogue moderator who failed to prevent him declaring "I am a Nazi" at Cannes, maybe it isn't satire at all?

And what I mean about the film getting 'outside' the misogyny is what Von Trier does in quite a subtle way elsewhere in the film. Abandon hope of avoiding spoilers all ye who enter here.

I'm really quite surprised that the other commentators in this thread, even those who acknowledge that Jack is an extremely unreliable narrator, take it for granted that he really is the serial killer he claims to be. Because the film never gets outside Jack's version of events, there's no objective evidence that he is, but there are veiled indications that he's a much more ordinary crook than he claims to be.

First, none of his crimes are at all plausible. Maybe this is because Jack is favoured by a God that lets him get away with everything. Maybe it's because he's not actually doing the everything that he claims to be getting away with. This also explains why the women (and most other characters) behave so unrealistically. He simply doesn't have a great imagination, and a very limited understanding of human behaviour.

Second, in Jack's first encounter with the police (during the second incident), they're not investigating a murder, or any act of violence, they're investigating a burglary in the area. Maybe just a minor detail, but it's echoed at the climax . . .

Third, when the police finally catch up with Jack, it's not for any of his professed crimes, but for "robbery". Is he actually a quite different, much less impressive, species of criminal after all?

Fourth, at the very end of the film, Verge tells Jack - and us - that he doesn't belong at the bottom of hell, but "further up". According to Dante (and there are sort of big flashing neon clues that we should be familiar with Dante if we're trying to understand the ending of the film), the Ninth Circle of Hell punishes Treachery, exemplified by Cain, who killed the brother who trusted him. Killing people who trusted him is basically all we see Jack do throughout the film, so if he doesn't belong at the bottom of Hell, what are his actual crimes?

So if what we see in the film didn't actually happen (and if you have trouble swallowing that the last act of the film "didn't actually happen" I don't know what to say to you!), what's really going on here?

My theory, based on the scanty evidence, is that Jack is a petty thief with delusions of grandeur (well, I think we can all agree on the "delusions of grandeur" part). He fantasizes about killing bolshy, or stupid, or trusting, or untrusting women (oh, and lots and lots and lots of men too - yeah, right), but he never actually does it. In his mind he could, and that's enough for him: he's special because he could have that power over others. The only thing that could seriously puncture his delusion is capture and arrest for his actual, mediocre crimes, so when the cops close in, he kills himself (presumably with poison - remember the taste of acid in his mouth that is referenced twice in the film?) rather than be confronted with his own mediocrity. In his final pretentious confession (can you get much more self-aggrandizing than having Virgil as your personal guide and confessor?) he constructs the metaphorical "house" of fantasized crimes that Von Trier literalizes for us, and confirms his amazing, delusional badass-ness by going down to the deepest depths of Hell. But, O Hapless Jack!, even there, there's the niggle of his actual, shitty reality that the Virgil part of himself can't help but express: he doesn't actually belong there. He's not the world's greatest serial killer, he's just a very naughty boy. Thus his final act of the film can be read as more than just one last grab at an unlikely brass ring, but as the subconscious assertion of his constructed identity: if he ends up at the very bottom of Hell, then he must be as bad, as special, as he says he is.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#319 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:32 pm

Before I read your post, zedz, I was coming back to post a bit from an interview with Matt Dillon that illuminated von Trier's thought process here a bit:
"I wasn't sure about the opening scene with Uma Thurman," [Dillon] said, referring to a long and peculiar sequence in which a taciturn Jack reluctantly stops to help a stranded motorist, who then goads him into murdering her. Jack beats the woman to death with her own car jack, and the savagery is no less difficult to watch just because the victim helped to encourage it along. "It felt to me like the only time Jack was passive," Dillon said, "but then it became clear to me: It's all in Jack's head! Uma's character is very real, but when she starts talking, the words we hear... that's his inner thinking. I told Lars and he gave me a look like 'you caught me'.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#320 Post by swo17 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:45 pm

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This is maybe obvious but I always took Jack's career of murders to be representative of von Trier's career as a filmmaker, so Jack only killed these characters in the same way that von Trier killed, say, Bess McNeill or Selma Jezkova
Excellent, insightful post, zedz

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#321 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:52 pm

swo17 wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:45 pm
SpoilerShow
This is maybe obvious but I always took Jack's career of murders to be representative of von Trier's career as a filmmaker, so Jack only killed these characters in the same way that, say, von Trier killed Bess McNeill or Selma Jezkova
I think the self-reflexive stuff is definitely there
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And if you take my reading as "I might be bad, but I'm not THAT bad", it's relevant too
but for me it's all a bit of "so what?" I'm not really interested in Von Trier creating a complicated allegory for his own career or artistic persona (which I don't find all that intriguing, though I like several of his films).

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#322 Post by swo17 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:05 pm

Could your reading also extend itself to an exploration of anxiety/depression, at least that side of it that tends to be heavily self-critical and to greatly exaggerate the extent of one's own flaws? Obviously a different angle than Melancholia takes toward the subject

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#323 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:12 pm

This is largely how I read the film, whether it was as deliberate or not, though the comedic moments felt consciously self-deprecating.

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Re: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)

#324 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:45 pm

swo17 wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:05 pm
Could your reading also extend itself to an exploration of anxiety/depression, at least that side of it that tends to be heavily self-critical and to greatly exaggerate the extent of one's own flaws? Obviously a different angle than Melancholia takes toward the subject
I also think that's a bit of a so what, and doesn't feel like a great fit for a film whose tone is way more self-aggrandizing than self-deprecating. Melancholia is a much more perceptive portrait of depression, to my mind.

To be honest, The House That Jack Built doesn't really feel like much of an "exploration" of anything to me. It makes references to external ideas (like mental illness, or filmmaking, or political correctness, or metaphysics) in a kind of allegorical or metaphorical way, but to me those analogues are quite static: it doesn't seem like the film does that much with them. Certainly nothing that offers any particular insight into the external concepts that are being referred to.

Let's look at misogyny, for example. What does the film say about it apart from "yep, some guys are misogynists" and possibly "these guys are bad guys"? Is there any fresh analysis of how misogyny is culturally transferred, how it evolves over time, how it is rationalized, how it can be countered? Antichrist did at least half-heartedly grapple with some of those additional dimensions of the issue.

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