Lars von Trier made a bit of an American Psycho type film. We follow Jack, a man with an obsessive-compulsive disorder but mostly a serial killer. The combination leads to Jack cleaning up houses of his victims thoroughly and checking multiple times for remains of blood.
We have Jack telling his story to his psychopomp. We get flashes of his violent youth, brutal murders and the things that go around in his head. All this is told with cold humour.
The filming seems to have been hand-held, but not completely ‘Dogma 95 proof’. It is mostly the way of filming that takes the film down a bit.
“The House That Jack Built” is a descent film, especially when you start to figure out how the film is meant to be. It is not a masterpiece, but when thinking big about the films that I saw from Von Trier, it is probably one of his better.
So what is the fuss around this film? Even though I had but little expectations for it, I was still disappointed. There is a thin story about a couple who loose their son and all the sudden the woman is afraid of Satan and the grass, oh wait, she already was before. The dialogues are dull and in bad English and the scene is not more shocking than an exploding head in a zombie-film. I think I missed something? So is “Antichrist” an awfull film? That would go too far, since Von Trier presents beautiful images, dark Lynchian scenes and a few interesting filmographic experiments. Personally I think that is all that is to it though.
I do not really follow Von Trier anymore, but I stumbled upon “The Boss Of It All” and decided to give it a try. It does provide a reason why I do not really follow the man anymore though… “The Boss Of It All” is a very minimalistic ‘office comedy’ with at a few moments Von Trier’s voice-over comments. The last of such comments is something about people expecting too much or too little and I guess I still expected too much. With Von Trier’s typical silly humour we watch an actor who is hired to be the director of a small company that is about to sell out. Of course the situations become more and more absurd, but the film never gets really good.
If you are looking for some experimental filmmaking, this might be something for you. In 1967 Jørgen Leth made the experimental film “Det Perfekte Menneske” (“The Perfect Human”). Leth was the teacher of Lars von Trier and however they came to this experiment (a bet or something, this does not become clear), Von Trier has Leth remake his film, but with “Five Obstructions”. Obviously Von Trier tries to see if he can get Leth to leave his usual system of making films. There are some pretty bizare demands and Leth does his utmost to make a short film with them to the liking of Von Trier. What you get in this film is discussions between Von Trier and Leth, making offs, the films themselves and of course the original film. I did not like the talks between Von Trier en Leth much, but the films that Leth came with are mostly quite nice to watch. In style they varry from cut-up images to animation.
I already had the “Riget” series, the first on crappy UK import DVD and the second on VHS, read my reviews by “browsing” “Riget”. Last week my eye fell on a 20 euros 2 DVD box with both series. That is even cheaper than my videotapes and I would have them on DVD and the first series with subtitles. To my major enjoyment I can also tell you that this box left all episode intro and outros and this release left 8 uncut hour+ episodes and not cut back to 50 minute episodes. This is the ultimate “Riget” box! Every episode starts with the story about the swamp and every episode ends with a little story by the director; the way it should be! So I suppose all you “Riget” fans out there might also want to lay your hands on this box, even if you already have the series like myself. Country mates best go to the Free Records Shop, since it is cheaper there than elsewhere.
E 20 for three videos isn’t too much money, right? Too bad that I had to get a horrible dvd-version of the first series in order to get the whole thing (reviewed elsewhere). Three videos exactly the way you get the thing on tv, nothing more, nothing less, PERFECT!. So this time I DID get to see the intros with the swamp, the hilarious song and intro AND Lars’ stories at the end of every episode.
The Kingdom I is still pretty much of a soap-series with some strange elements, but it builds up to an extremely crazy end. No waiting when you have everything at home, so I immediately continued with these second series (of three years later!). These are MUCH darker, crazier and absurd than series I. Again I am not going to tell you too much about this ghost-story-hospital-soap. If you like the bizare kind of tv-making and you haven’t seen The Kingdom, be sure to see it! Also the second series have a very open end, but I don’t believe Von Trier will ever make a third series. <5>
A while ago I bought Kingdom II very cheap on video (see review elsewhere) and the search started for Kingdom I on video. It WILL be repressed some time, but it is currently sold out. After several months waiting I decided not to wait for the double-video (in one box) but buy the rather expensive English dvd-version. A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT for lovers of these brilliant series by Lars von Trier! You get two dvd’s. The first has episodes 1 and 2 and the second 3 to 5. The first dvd also has some documentary which doesn’t add much. Of course the series are brilliant and there is nothing wrong with the quality, but the makers of the dvd made a few horrible mistakes! When putting dvd1 in your player you get some kind of intro, nice but not necessary. Then a menu in which you can choose to play “episode one and two”, “episode one”, “episode two”, “episode three to five” or the documentary. Of course I wasn’t planning on chosing the first option, because then I would miss the stories of the director that come after every episode. To my major disapproval the episodes start immediately. Not the intro with the chloride-swamp and the story of the building of the hospital and no silly song! At the end you jump back to the menu in the last second of the episode, so no story by Lars and even no credits! What on earth have the producers of this dvd been thinking? What is the use of being able to watch the episodes joint together? You are not able to chose subtitles or even watch without them. Why the hell did they leave out the intro and the end? WHAT A SHAME!!
To the series then. Of course this is one of the best tv-series ever. A soap-series about a hospital in the vein of ER, but with a sick twist. Strange ghost-stories, insane characters and unexpected twists. I am not going to say more, you will have to watch it and love it (but preferable another version!). <4 for the series>
Maybe not the best Von Trier film, but still this is the better kind of film. “Europa” tells the story of the American Leopold Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) who goes to the post-WWII Germany to be conductor in a sleeptrain. Germany is in ruins, a terrorist organisation practically rules the country and everybody tries to make life as livable as possible. The film is almost entirely in black and white with here and there some colour to bring things under attention. Further you don’t get to see the light of day, which makes the film extra grim and depressive. Also it is very slow and not much happens. Actually it is mostly an atmosphere-picture.
If you like the more independent/alternative kinds of films, this is one that you should see some time. <3>
I had seen this film before, but this was probably before I started this filmsection. I didn’t realise that it is as old as it is. “Epidemic” is a film in which filmwriters have five days to write a new script. They decide to write something about the plague. You see them writing the script, doing research, etc. The film is alright, but the end is terrible. 28/2/04
Von Trier did it again. After no artificial light and no self-built stages he came up with something else: no stages at all! He worked it out brilliantly. The village of the title is a small village with 15 inhabitents. You can see the setting is a studio, the streets are named, houses are stripes on the ground with the name of the residents written in it and the bench says “old lady’s bench”. Here and there there is a part of stage, like a bed, a couch or the tip of a tower flying in the air. With this setting Von Trier manages to surprise you for about 60 or 90 minutes. The actors open fictional doors, knock in the air, etc. The funny thing is: you get used to it. The greates thing is that it makes things very literally transparrent. With one shot you can see the whole village and exactly what everyone is doing, but of course people can’t look inside eachothers houses, so this openness is only for the viewer. Light, dark, day, night, snow and fire and made with the least material possible, but are effective enough. Very well done!
BUT, the story is stretched out over three hours. It is told in a funny way though. A voiceover telling a story in nine chapters and a prolog, with a very nice sence of humour (British I would say). It was totally unnessary to use three long hours to make the film though. The story is about the simple village Dogville which lays in the Rocky Mountains in the middle of nowwhere. There is only one road to the village which even ends there. Nicole Kidman ends up in the village when fleeing from a group of criminals. The village hides Grace (Kidman), but as time goes, demands more and more in return. Overall “Dogville” is a charge against the market economy. The price of Grace gets higher with the danger the village is in. This eventually leads to inhumane behaviour and ends in an eruption of violence.
I like the idea behind the film, I love the way Von Trier worked it out. Totally unique with stage-playing more than film-acting, but I sure hope that there will be a shorter version of it some time. -3/9/03-