Fatal Attractions

Lars von Trier is the acclaimed Danish filmmaker behind Dogville, Breaking The Waves and Antichrist, and winner of Cannes’ Palme d’Or for Dancer In The Dark. His latest film, The House That Jack Built, chronicles 12 years in the life of a serial killer, Jack, played by Matt Dillon. 

ASFF:You originally planned this as a TV show. What happened?
We had got fantastic financing, but the problem was I couldn’t live up to the time that they needed it [done by], so I had to hire some writers and some directors and I’ve never worked that way… I had to write this film extremely fast because [Von Trier’s production company] Zentropa was missing money, which is a permanent situation, I think! [When it came to writing it], if you say you have a serial killer, then there is a tension to any scene. It will always be interesting to look at, unless of course you reject the whole film.

ASFF: What made you choose a serial killer as the subject?
LvT: I just took it as a subject. If you have a serial killer, then you can’t go wrong! Whatever he does might be suddenly something very dangerous or very stupid, especially since he’s a mass murderer and a psychopath, which not all of them are. The psychopath has the tendency to over-estimate his abilities. That’s why he says completely stupid things to the police. But I understand this hidden thing that he really wants to get caught.

ASFF: Is this why Jack never wears gloves during his crimes?
LvT: Yeah, but at that time [the late 1970s], it was before the DNA stuff. If they had his fingerprints, maybe they don’t know who he is. I agree …I made the police more naïve and the women more stupid!

ASFF: Jack uses his corpses to create a macabre work of art. What gave you that idea?
LvT: I thought it was obvious. Since he was a mass killer, what are they doing with the corpses? He kept them in this walk-in freezer, so he had the material. It made sense to me. That’s all I can say.

ASFF: Was this a hard film to cast?
LvT: Yeah, it was difficult. Matt’s part was difficult to cast. Matt was free and he said, “I can do it.” Which was great. That’s what you want to hear. Then I thought about who has cast him in the beginning, and found out that it’s the same guy [Fred Roos] that cast The Godfather. So he must be the perfect guy!

The House That Jack Built opens in cinemas on 14 December. For more details, click here.

James Mottram

1. Stills from The House That Jack Built.