Movie Reviews: The House That Jack Built (2018)

“Let me put it this way: very few make it all the way without uttering a word. But do carry on merrily. Just don’t believe you’re going to tell me something I haven’t heard before.”


I no longer understand these impulses in my own mind. The synapses fire at unknowable angles, infinite velocities, each carving its own path through my feeble mush. When I look in the mirror, I see an empty vessel standing before me. He looks scared. The House That Jack Built seems to see inside me. It sings its own melody, each shot meticulous, immaculate, marching to its own silent rhythm. Perhaps a kindred spirit, one who can find the reality inside my bereft form? Does one dare to dream?

Some may decry the creator as an empty provocateur, a man who delights in poking his thumbs into hornet nests, but they are scared, I think, of what may lie beneath. He finds the crevices others dare to leave unexplored, the dark corners of our minds, and he leaves no stone unturned. He’s one who’s been to the brink of oblivion and has come back, eager to share what the abyss spoke to him while he stared into its unblinking gaze. His films may not always connect, and he sometimes gets lost in the weeds, but I don’t hold with those who feel he’s got nothing of worth to offer. Some people may not want to hear what the end of the world sounds like. I understand, and don’t, at the same time. I contain multitudes, you see. As does Lars.

This film, you see, is ugly. It’s raw. It’s vicious and disgusting, a portrait of a man who sees himself as an artist, a visionary who fumbles his way through basic interactions, one who can barely seem to get any sort of grasp on his own inner workings. He’s me, and you. The only person he can relate to is his charioteer, the one who carries him to hell, his inner monologue that constantly questions his motivations and self-described artistic…impulses. There is is. The old ones return, the compulsions, the temptations. And Mister Verge speaks again, asking me what I could ever mean with those words. Why these? Why that? Why am…I?

The film is the void, and I am the messenger. I am the one who carries back a message of joy, for there will be an end to all this. Conclusions are never beautiful. They’re messy, and hard, and they take great chunks of meat and blood and the soul of a man when they arrive, leaving gaping wounds in their wake. They come to all of us. They’re terrible, possessing no nobility or poignancy. Merely suffering. Merely aching.

I know some, perhaps most, will not want to hear this. They won’t want to see the deep, black pit of humanity for what it is. They will decry this film as a waste, as a pointless exercise. The void is inherently empty, but it is an emptiness found of necessity. For the totality must, by definition, include its own destruction. This is it. This is the harbinger. I feel it again, crawling, burrowing. When it comes to the eyes, then I can see the hunger in my visage. This is who I am. This is who Jack is. How he sees, how he perceives the all and the nothing, this is his view. We take his face, the eyes and the mouth, the tongue, the supple skin, and we stretch it. We slide the bloody mask over ourselves, snapping the nerves into place, the oculars replacing our own, and for a brief, shining moment, we can see as he does. It is glorious and terrible. He would say the same of us.

And now I can see. I can feel. I am not as he, and you are not as I, and he is not as you, and we are all striving towards our doom. It should scare you. That is the natural reaction when seeing it come over the horizon. Some may run. Some may embrace it.

I want to understand it.