Jack is an engineer who’s always wanted to be an architect. He has severe OCD and no real friends to speak of unless you count some mechanics and hunting buddies that he talks to in passing.
At the outset of the film, we hear Dillon’s voice and the voice of a guy named “Virg” (Bruno Ganz, who is also a legend in my mind). Jack wants to tell Virg the tale of his storied career, as both an architect, and a killer. However, Jack doesn’t consider his killings to really be anything too negative. It’s simply an art, a way for him to express himself.
Something I didn’t necessarily expect but should have because it’s Von Trier was the degree of philosophical discussion about the nature of man, art and artist, and man’s relation to the world around him. It’s not simply a slasher film. The violence, which there is plenty of, is actually somewhat incidental to what Jack, and in essence, Von Trier, is actually trying to achieve.
“…quite a few scenes in this film that will haunt you, possibly forever.”
Beginning with the amazing Dancer In The Dark, Von Trier uses his films to make huge metaphorical indictments against American culture and our overall way of life. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with everybody, but that’s what makes Von Trier who he is. The House That Jack Built picks up that momentum and shows us the faults in the general attitude of “The American Man”. Jack is essentially an embodiment of toxic masculinity and stereotypical American machismo to the nth degree.
What’s great and honestly hilarious is that Jack is also a version of Von Trier himself, since Jack considers himself first and foremost to be an artist. There are many times in the film where Von Trier makes fun of himself and what the world thinks about him. In one particularly pointed example, Virg asks Jack, “Do you think all women are stupid?” which is about as direct of an acknowledgment to criticisms made against his work as you can get.
Let’s get down to brass tacks here. There are quite a few scenes in this film that will haunt you, possibly forever. Particularly one incident involving taxidermy that will stay with me for the rest of my life. You’ll also never think of hunting deer or family picnics the same way again. There’s also a strange addition of certain parts of a world famous poem that I’d be sorely remiss in revealing here, but oddly enough it all works, in my opinion. Some people, including a couple of people I watched the film with, may see The House That Jack Built as pretentious nonsense. Others will see it as the glorification of violence. I see it for what it was intended to be, a work of complicated, violent, hilarious art.
"…uses his films to make huge metaphorical indictments against American culture..."