Von Trier targets #MeToo in shocking serial killer film

Cannes (France) (AFP) –


Controversial director Lars von Trier kicked up a storm of anger at the Cannes film festival Tuesday with a brutal serial killer film which many saw as giving the finger to the #MeToo movement.

The Danish provocateur, who was banned from Cannes for seven years for saying he understood Hitler, has a frustrated architect played by Matt Dillon kill a string of women and children in scenes of such "abhorrent cruelty" that many critics walked out.

"Vile movie. Should not have been made. Actors (also) culpable," said American entertainment reporter Roger Friedman, while another who left tweeted, "Gross. Pretentious. Vomitive. Torturous. Pathetic."

Others lambasted "The House That Jack Built" for its "gruesome misogyny".

As the killer Jack horribly mutilates one girlfriend, he says: "Why is it always the man's fault... If you are born male you are born to be guilty. Think of the injustice of that."

He later makes a wallet from her severed breast.

Dillon later told reporters that he had misgivings. "I didn't want to do the movie for that" but was talked round by von Trier who he insisted was not a cruel man.

But the sequence that sparked most revulsion -- and also shook Dillon -- was when Jack hunts down two children and their mother he invites on a picnic.

After the horrifying scene he then indulges in some amateur taxidermy on one of the boys.

- 'I never killed anybody' -

Von Trier was unrepentant telling reporters that "if you kill a child it should be disturbing... It is dishonest not to (show) things that happen in real life, which is worse.

"I would have been a great serial killer but I was controlled enough not to start in that direction," he added in a typically twisted von Trier flourish. "I have never killed anybody -- but if I did it would be a journalist."

The Hollywood Reporter had earlier slammed the film as "an autoerotic ego massage... often as inane as it is unsettling."

And there was no doubt that it was "a direct FU to the current climate of reckoning over gender bias and sexual misconduct."

But the director denied the film was macho push-back after the #MeToo revolution, which he said was convicting people without a judge.

"Everyone has something to regret. Nobody can go through life without touching a knee -- maybe on purpose, maybe not."

And skewered Cannes for banning him for while disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was allow to allegedly continue abusing and raping women at the festival.

"Where's Harvey?" he quipped, "I don't know any other persona non grata at Cannes."

- 'Gruesome' -

Von Trier seemed to taunt the festival in the film with images of Hitler and other mass-murdering dictators as the killer rhapsodises about icons of evil and the sound of German World World II Stuka dive-bombers.

The 62-year-old enfant terrible has also had to deny accusations he sexually harassed singer Bjork on the set of his 2000 film, "Dancer in the Dark".

Danish authorities investigating the production company he founded said female staff had been bullied, humiliated and sexually harassed.

His longtime producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen said last week he would stop spanking his staff or asking them to strip.

Cannes has been criticised by feminist activists for allowing Von Trier back, particularly in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.

The bad boy of arthouse cinema delights in butchering sacred cows and pushing beyond the limits of taste.

First reviews of "The House That Jack Built" were mostly hostile, with The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw writing that it was "an ordeal of gruesomeness and tiresomeness that was every bit as exasperating as I had feared."

However he admitted to being impressed by its "spectacular horror finale".

The film received a traditional standing ovation at its gala premiere, which prompted one person to say, "They'll clap for anything," according to Variety correspondent Ramin Setoodeh?.