Unfolding as a very long flashback like he did for his last movie Nymphomaniac (2013), Lars von Trier and takes the protagonism on this 5th festival day, comes back with the story of a serial killer structured in several incidents, striking sometimes as a murdering sequence kind of slasher, bloody disgusting, sometimes with a comic irony (Cohen Brothers’ style), but without loosing completely the Von Trier’s trademark stamp. This combination of violence with encyclopedic lessons and archival footage, with those dialogues around many topics that try to bring us closer to the understanding of human nature, even if they do not leave one indifferent, may not fulfill the expectations that the director built up along the years for those who followed his author’s cinema. Being among the disappointed ones, I must yet agree that each of his movies is a daring proposal (with or without sense, but anyways that’s not a question you make when talking about art), deeply attached to the roots of human behavior, or at least to his biography, as filmmaking must still be part of the therapy to get rid of his phantoms.
Following the murderer through the chapter sequence, which Von Trier has adopted as a personal style when it comes to tell a story, he uses the different incidents to show the trajectory of an engineer that is trying to accomplish an ultimate artwork: he wants to build a house. Just as a reminder: engineers do not build houses, architects do. So, what’s the point of this professional challenge, what is Jack really looking for, when he says he’s trying to build his perfect house?
At university, we used to say that an architect is someone far more sensitive than an engineer, still lacking the guts to become an artist. Our protagonist may have knowledge and technique, but definitely lacks of the emotions needed to build a place for living, somewhere that will serve as a container for the human life. He seeks for the perfect materials, yet has to destroy it and try from scratch again, more than once, since the house doesn’t seem to be as it looked on the models, doesn’t convince the perfectionism (obsessive compulsive) of our Jack, who meanwhile is unstoppable with committing his crimes, somehow blessed by fate, unnoticed and liberating.
As many have read between the lines before, our beloved director may be talking about himself and his artwork in this attempt to explain why someone tries to do something that he can be proud of, something that is not understood by the majority, something that may even be out of his skills’ reach, unmoral, and against people, but still categorized as art, and so, possible. I would say (without making spoilers) that the end of the movie was starting finally to catch me, yet I don’t find it enough to justify the previous two hours of film.
You can find the full review here.
A bit eclipsed by Jack but still lost in the dark corners of human behavior, Antonio, the protagonist of Animal (2018) is faced with the difficult situation of dying and still having the chance to save himself if he finds a kidney donor. The hopes crumble little by little as his faith in the system and all his previous beliefs starts falling down: feeling left aside by his family, one of his main pillars, he will initiate his personal descent to hell while questioning human morality when it comes to survival. The second feature film by Armando Bo (mostly known as scriptwriter for Birdman (2014) and Biutiful (2010)) leaves the discomfort of not being sure about who’s the good and the bad, or even if actions can be judged out of a context.