Filmmaking — and indeed all art — involves a contract between the creator and the beholder: the creator makes an offer, which the beholder, by watching, accepts. Harold Pinter and Michael Haneke have written plays and films which hinge on this agreement, far better than [Lars] Von Trier: works that call into question the moral acquiescence of the audience, the collaboration of the spectator in the barbarity depicted onscreen. [In The House That Jack Built] Von Trier blithely, or perhaps stupidly, asks us to accept the very terms of his film, and to judge the movie on what he has set out to do — namely, to accept that the violence depicted here, the torture and abuse, can be a parable for Von Trier’s own abusive behaviour towards women, and the way his films have enacted, again and again, the suffering of women. But I do not have to accept those terms; we do not have to collaborate with Von Trier in deeming this a subject. And, incidentally, the abuse of women is a poor metaphor for the abuse of women.
Caspar Salmon just stopped watching.
I know it’s kind of besides the point, but as someone who went through an Asian gorehound cinema phase it’s hard not to notice that the scene from The House That Jack Built that most critics are listing as the most “shocking” (a woman getting her boob cut off) is not even all that original; it’s one of the infamous set-pieces from Ichi the Killer, for example. And I will confess, I often quite like exploitative “shock art”… but if you’re going to make it, at least have the decency to be honest about why (i.e. to, y’know, shock people), rather than dressing it up in pseudo-intellectual garbage wankery designed to nudge-nudge-wink-wink your own Really Real World abusive behavior.