The meaning of the movie “The House That Jack Built”, explanation of the ending, plot, content, similar films. “The house that Jack built”: why the intellectual became a killer
Country: Denmark, France
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime
Year of production: 2018
Director: Lars von Trier
Actors: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon, Sophie Grobeul
tagline: “If you feel like screaming… you definitely should”
Awards and nominations: “Best Feature Film”, “Best Foreign Film” at the European Fantastic Film Festival in Strasbourg
The meaning of the film “The House That Jack Built” (The House That Jack Built) is quite extraordinary. However, like other works of Trier. The director seems to be pushing the audience to independently comprehend the hodgepodge of frames that flash on the screen. The relationship between the events of the storyline can be traced quite clearly, but the general meaning usually eludes understanding. Let’s try to find it.
What is ‘The House That Jack Built’ about?
Let’s start the analysis of the idea with a description of the storyline. The protagonist of this story is Jack, an intellectual killer who killed more than 60 people. In terms of content, the antihero is talking to someone behind the scenes, raising rather deep philosophical topics. In the meantime, Jack talks about five incidents that touched his soul and had a direct impact on his life.
Matt Dillon played the role of Jack. Frame from the film.
The House That Jack Built begins with a traffic accident. Our maniac meets an obsessive lady on the road, whose tire has been pierced. The girl first asks to take her to the workshop, then back, and finally put the spare tire. At the same time, the woman chats incessantly, at first she says that Jack looks like a serial killer, then she calls him a slob who is unable to take a life. It ends with our hero hammering this person with a jack. He hides the body in a freezer he bought on occasion along with a batch of frozen pizza. Most likely, Jack singled out this incident because it is his first murder.
Jack tracks down an old lady and knocks on the door of her house. At first, he introduces himself as a policeman, then as an insurance agent, and promises the woman to double her pension, which she receives after the death of her husband. Once in the house, he strangles the mistress, but unsuccessfully. The woman is alive. Initially, Jack gives her water to drink, then re-suffocates her, stabs her heart with a knife and arranges a photo shoot on the couch with a dead body.
He is going to transport the corpse to the freezer, but for a long time he does not dare to leave the house. It always seems to him that he left blood somewhere. The killer constantly comes back and wipes the surfaces. He attracts the attention of a police officer who has come to the area to respond to a call. Jack on the go comes up with a story about the mysterious disappearance of the mistress, but the patrol advises him not to interfere in the investigation, and sends him home.
This incident can be regarded as becoming a serial killer. This is probably the first meaningful murder committed by Jack. Here he is convinced of his impunity.
Uma Thurman as Lady #1. Frame from the film.
Jack brings a woman with her two sons to a picnic. He shows the boys a hunting rifle and even lets them shoot at a target. However, the killer later begins to hunt his guests. First, he kills both sons. After that, together with the mother of the boys, he arranges a picnic, offering her to treat the dead child with a pie. Jack asks the woman for her favorite number. Hearing 12, he counts up to this number, climbing the hunting tower. On the count of twelve, Jack shoots the fleeing woman in the back.
Most likely, this is the middle of his career as a maniac, when Jack gets a taste and comes up with more and more sophisticated methods of murder.
Here the director introduces the viewer to Jack’s girlfriend – “Stupid”. The killer, who by that time had already received the nickname “Mr. Sophistication”, insults the girl, calling her dumb as a cork. He tells her that he has already killed 60 people, and “Stupid” will be the 61st. The girl tries to escape, she even gets out of the house and tells the policeman about everything. This is confirmed by Jack who ran after her. However, the patrolman thinks the couple are drunk and leaves.
Jack apologizes and lures the girl back to the apartment. Here she realizes that she will be killed. Jack, along with her, calls for help, realizing that no one will come. As a result, the killer cuts off both of Stupid’s breasts. He leaves one on the windshield of the car, pressing the windshield wiper with a brush, he processes the second and makes himself a wallet.
This is the satiety of a murderer who believes in his impunity and elusiveness.
Riley Keough as Simple. Frame from the film.
Jack kidnaps 5 people in order to shoot them all in the head with a full metal jacket bullet. However, one of the potential victims reports that the bullet is not solid metal. Jack returns to the store and demands to change the cartridges. The seller refuses. Then Jack goes to his old acquaintance, who considers him guilty of theft and calls the police.
Jack kills a man and then a police officer who arrives. As a result of his misadventures, he returns to the freezer, where victims tied to goats await their fate. While he is choosing the best place to shoot, the police begin to break into the freezer.
This is the first time we see Verge, with whom Jack has an off-screen conversation. Verge offers to finish the job that Jack started, and he builds a house from the frozen bodies of the victims. Entering inside, he sees a hatch under his feet, into which he jumps.
This is the end of the maniac’s path, the meaning of which can be assumed to be the death of Jack.
At the end of The House That Jack Built, we see the killer’s journey through Hell with Virge. Here Jack is trying to climb the wall, but breaks down and falls into the fiery abyss. End.
Explanation of the ending of The House That Jack Built
The meaning of the film’s ending is quite logical and unambiguous. The criminal path of the maniac was interrupted. Why, the story is silent, maybe Jack was shot by the police or something like that. In any case, the essence of the film comes down to Jack’s posthumous reasoning about the meaning of being. Most likely, the events take place during the journey of the killer with Wurge, who is a guide to the afterlife. The road is long, so you can chat.
At the same time, Jack’s death does not scare him. Since childhood, he grew up in a world of cruelty and is used to not being afraid of it. He is above morality and ethics, he presents himself as an architect. In his understanding, this is the creator who works on the form. In reality, Jack turns out to be the engineer he has always despised. He is an empath, so he is incapable of feeling pity and compassion. He even treats his crimes as if they were art, trying to create art out of death, understandable only to him alone.
Even in death, Jack sees his journey as just another adventure. In the film, he voiced his position that Hell and Heaven are one and the same. After death, the body remains in Hell, and the soul ascends to heaven. That is why Jack remains so calm and has lengthy conversations on philosophical topics with his guide. He is not afraid of death, because he has seen enough of it, and killed more than 60 people.
He chose his own path and knew where it would eventually lead him. Therefore, the director chose the end of the film to be extremely successful, making a reference to the Divine Comedy.
The meaning of the movie “The House That Jack Built”
Unlike a simple explanation of the ending, the interpretation of the film itself does not look so unambiguous. The key here lies in the change of the killer himself. In particular, the first murder of a woman was spontaneous. Jack commits a meaningful crime only in the second incident, and here he learns a very important lesson. He understands that the truth can be so monstrous that no one believes in it. People are ready to be deceived, which confirms his meeting with the policeman.
Then Jack begins to simply look for himself. He is an insecure person striving for the ideal. Jack is an architect, but he can’t bring his idea to fruition. This hidden meaning is clearly seen in the construction scenes. Jack builds a house on the lake, first choosing concrete blocks, then demolishing them with a bulldozer and giving preference to wood.
So it is with murders. Jack is a very atypical serial maniac who doesn’t have a specific handwriting. He has been looking for himself all his life, not suspecting that he has already built an ideal house. House of corpses. This was the meaning of his life.
The second meaning of The House That Jack Built is indifference. This is clearly seen in the incident with the silly girl. She calls for help, but no one comes. Perhaps that is why maniacs appear in our indifferent society.
Bruno Ganz played the role of Verger. Frame from the film.
Movies similar to The House That Jack Built
- Beautiful, Bad, Evil (USA, 2019). A film adaptation of the story of one of the most famous serial killers in America – Ted Bundy, who has 36 ruined souls. It all starts with a love story and ends with death.
- Monster from Martfu (Hungary, 2016). In 1957, Reti Akosh had a fight with a girl he was seeing off, and later a girlfriend was found in the river. The guy was sentenced to 25 years, but later a young woman is murdered again in the city …
- Call to the Dead (Germany, 2018). Paul Hertzfeld is a forensic doctor who has to find his kidnapped daughter. The man communicates with the kidnapper in an unusual way – the psychopath leaves him notes in the bodies of the dead. How will this game of cat and mouse end?
- Dexter (USA, 2006-2013). Dexter Morgan is a medical examiner in Miami and is doing great. However, no one knows about his other side – he is a serial killer who turned death into art.
- Funny Games (Austria, 1997). A family trip to a country house by a picturesque lake turns into a real nightmare. Suddenly there are two guys who are visiting in the neighborhood. They kill the dog, after which they invite the husband and wife and their 10-year-old son to play a game.