The most divisive director working today could arguably be Lars Von Trier and whether one considers him as someone who sets out to shock or not, he manages it either way. His latest caused a large walkout at Cannes, where he had seven years previously been banned, but managed to be readmitted. All is forgiven? Not quite, it seems.
So, down to the film in question: The House that Jack built. Named after a Metallica song, some might not expect much from such meagre beginnings. However, this is a piece of art that demands more than one viewing. It is also a full-on psychological horror film full of the allegorical elements people have come to expect from the great Dane. Jack is an engineer who has dreams, aspirations to build a magnificent house based on his architectural ideas. As a sociopathic serial killer in the making we follow him in his truck through several years of, at first confusion, anger, and then curiosity. He is a frustrated artist you see and his ambivalence with his fellow race of humans ties in nicely with his creative hankering.
There is a fine line with the use of humour in the horror genre and it can be used to bring up feelings of dread and shock effectively. Here it makes the viewer uncomfortable, we are drawn into Jack's world and what he is doing is repugnant. Rarely do we get into the head of the person doing the killing and, although a very different film, a comparison could be made with 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer', which also used humour in an odd way and made the viewer step into the shoes of a sick man who had no empathy for the people around him.
In the end we go on a wild ride into a surreal final 20 minutes or so. The representation of classical literature and art combine with the voice inside his head, Verge. The philosophical discourse that has been present builds to a head as Jack's id comes face to face with his super-ego, in the flesh. Jack himself has felt no guilt or shame and we enter his hell, shown as Dante's inferno with the guide being Verge, as Virgil was in the original text. One single tear falls as he remembers the last time he was innocent, as a child. This could be corny in the hands of a lesser director, but this is not a lesser director.
The House That Jack Built is showing now at a cinema near you