Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Jack (Matt Dillon) for "The House that Jack Built" does more than builds a house, he creates art. From architecture, sculpture, photography, and even... I guess you could call it performance art if you that is what you think of when you hear the word 'hunting'. He is a lucky psychotic loveless artist whose medium of choice is dead bodies. The film follows the story of Jack has he retells how he made five of his artworks (aka how he killed 5 women) while he is talking and walking with Verge (Bruno Ganz). This film could be seen as a dark comedy with artistic flavours in it since a thriller it is not.
The film had an interesting use of colour with Jack's red van popping out in the scenes, plus the use of blood was realistic and not too over the top gory in most of the scenes. There was one scene where Jack stabled a lady (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) in the heart and the blood shot up and out which I didn't find too realistic but than again I don't work with hearts so I don't know much. The cast did a great job with the material with a few of them being stand outs such as Sofie Gråbøl who has very good facial expressions that the sight of demented lose and Uma Thurman who delivered a fairly odd character who talks about serial killers while getting a lift with a stranger. And she was needy.
Matt Dillon did a fantastic job with Jack the man that you follow along to in the story but one that you do not really like. He is not really charming and he is described as weird but he is more emotional absent than anything. Yes, all psychopaths are but it was kind of more obvious in Jack's case. However, the film did do a great job showing mental illness with someone how has OCD and how he thinks and mentally functions. We have seen characters cleaning to death but rarely what goes on in their heads and the effect is has on their bodies before. This was well done and gave me some insight. However, the more Jack kills the less OCD he becomes which could be seen in the way he wears his clothes (I think) but I suspect that his obsession with cleaning was merely replaced with killing which can be seen when he speaks about walking between two lamp posts (it would be clear once you see it).
The camera work was okay in all the parts but not something that was to my personal liking but I did get used to it so I guess many over viewers wouldn't have a problem with it. There was a lot of movements from looking at the jack to looking at Jack or Thurman's character etc. The camera work seems to have become more stable as the film went on. The editing had jump cuts which didn't always make sense to me but it was the style and maybe the film was going for an 'expressionism' (you are only watching a movie) idea??? There were also cut aways to other art works such as a pianist playing, paintings, buildings, and even scenes from other movies which made more sense when you get to the end of the film because you realise why Verge can see them as well since he makes a comment on after the first one which echos what the audience must have thought when "randomly" started playing a clip. By the end the imagery does take on a more artistic look to it with some surreal visuals and hectic use of colour.
However, the sound design was king and held everything together. This film starts with Jack talking to Verge but we see nothing and as the film progresses they keep their conversation going and we get a bit of a sense what type of character Verge is. The film comes full circle when the end joins up at the beginning but we get to see what we did not before. There was a part when the story was going on but the conversation had Jack saying how he feels sick and we hear splashing sounds, at the end it becomes clear why the sounds of water was there at the beginning.
I don't want to give too much away. But once you get into the film you could end up enjoying in and the ending is something that you may not have expected. You could argue that Jack's luck was gone or that he got lucky one last time but in a different way. This film clocks in at 2h32mins and if you like to watch a character study told from the point of view of that character than watching Jack do what he do could be for you. "The House That Jack Built" does not show the lead in a good light it merely shows him.