Lars Von Trier is a cinematic enfant terrible, continually provoking the medium’s established narrative and stylistic tropes in favour of a more transgressive viewing experience. Likewise, the director’s long-standing relationship with the Cannes Film Festival has always galvanized a polarizing response. The auteur has nabbed the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, for 2000’s Dancer in the Dark, starring Icelandic songstress Björk. A decade afterwards, Trier was banned from attending the festival for seven years following a controversial press conference for his film Melancholia, which saw the outspoken filmmaker exclaim that he sympathized with Hitler.
However, Trier is now allowed back, and has caused quite the stir as per usual. The House That Jack Built follows a serial killer (played by Matt Dillon) over the course of twelve years. Given its subject matter, the director did not hold back on emphasizing the maniacal tendencies of its lead character, as he can be seen dismembering/murdering children and women alike.
As many as 100 critics and audience members stormed out of the theatre in utter disgust. Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan spoke directly to an outraged spectator who notes how Dillon’s character “mutilates Riley Keough, he mutilates children… and we are all there in formal dress expected to watch it?”
Likewise, Variety‘s New York Bureau Chief Ramin Setoodeh overheard one woman call the film “disgusting.”
Those who remained seated throughout the screening eventually showered the film with a six minute standing ovation.