Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Election 2020: Live Results | Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice

Director’s Cut Of Lars Von Trier’s ‘House That Jack Built’ Screens One Night Only

Angelika Film Center and Digital Gym screen controversial film on Wednesday

Photo credit: IFC Films

Matt Dillon plays a serial killer in Lars Von Trier's "The House That Jack Built."

IFC Films is holding a special single night screening the unrated director’s cut of Lars von Trier’s controversial "The House That Jack Built" on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

When Lars Von Trier premiered his film "The House That Jack Built" at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, 100 people walked out but those who remained gave it a standing ovation. That led to Von Trier telling a journalist: “It’s quite important not to be loved by everybody, because then you’ve failed. I’m not sure if they hated it enough, though. If it gets too popular, I’ll have a problem. But the reception seemed just about right.”

That is such a radically different sensibility from filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard who want everyone to love their films.

Von Trier's comment perfectly sums him up as both an artist and a provocateur. He takes delight in shocking people both through his films and what he says. Even his ad campaigns stir controversy because of the images chosen to promote his films. You can look at the poster art for "The House That Jack Built" and see how Von Trier is hoping to offend some with just the images for the film.

His new film casts Matt Dillon as a serial killer named Jack who tells us in the trailer that "the old cathedrals often have sublime artworks hidden away in the darkest corners for only God to see. The same goes for murder."

I have not yet seen the film but agreed as part of Film Geeks SD to co-host the screening at Digital Gym Cinema because Von Trier is a director whose films merit attention no matter what. Unlike many filmmakers at least he has something he wants to say and is willing to go to any extreme to make his point. That kind of artistic go-for-broke attitude is rare, and in the past I have appreciated his work even when it was flawed.

Because Film Geeks SD is about placing movies in a larger context and creating intelligent discussion around them, the Wednesday screening will have a post-film panel with John Skipp (via Skype), author of "The Art of Horrible People" and Carla Nell of InnerMission Productions.

Von Trier first gained international attention with the film "Breaking the Waves" in 1996 and then cemented his bad boy status with later works such as "Dogville,""Anti-Christ" and "Nymphomaniac."

In one of the trailers for "The House That Jack Built," Dillon's killer tells us: "Some people claim that the atrocities we commit in our fiction are those inner desires, which we cannot commit in our controlled civilization, so they are expressed instead through our art." That seems like Von Trier justifying the violence in his film; violence to children, women and animals. The bulk of the Cannes walkouts apparently occurred at the graphic death of two children.

But then Von Trier seems to undercut that arguments with Jack's following line: "I don’t agree. I believe heaven and hell are one and the same. The soul belongs to heaven and the body to hell."

So Von Trier seems to add fuel to the criticism of his film. But then that's probably exactly what he wanted to do — add gasoline to the fire. And that's why I love his films and look forward to each cinematic provocation even though his films are often flawed.

"The House That jack Built" screens Wednesday at the Angelika Film Center and Digital Gym Cinema. IFC will then distribute the theatrical cut of the film on Dec. 14.

IFC Films is holding a special one-night screening of the unrated director’s cut of Lars von Trier’s controversial "The House That Jack Built" on Wednesday, Nov. 28.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Your curated weekly guide to local arts and culture in San Diego, from Arts Calendar Editor Julia Dixon Evans, delivered to your inbox every Thursday afternoon.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.