Oh boy, a new Von Trier movie. Christmas came early. I’ve been a big fan of his for a while and I was very excited when I saw that this came out.
Jack (played by Matt Dillon), is a serial killer. We follow him as he tells his story, a 12-year killing spree in the 1970s and 1980s. We get to experience what the life of a serial killer is as he goes into great detail of his life. As he tells his story we see that he is talking with someone, perhaps a psychiatrist, called Verge (played by Bruno Ganz). Jack is someone who takes killing very seriously. He treats his kills as a work of art. The movie is divided into several “incidents” which are all different kills of his. Each of those kills had a profound effect on him and we start to see what exactly makes him tick.
There is a lot to dissect in this film. It’s hard to know where to start really. The best part of the film was definitely Matt Dillon’s performance. He did a fantastic job portraying Jack who was a very interesting character. He is very intelligent and as a funny twist has OCD which is a very annoying thing to have as a serial killer. His dialogues with Verge were also very well written. They talk about so many deep topics which are presented in an incredible way. The ending was also very fascinating and it took a very different direction than what I thought. Which, actually is a good thing, it made the film much better. It’s a very dark but at the same time very comical movie. The ending was one of the best movie endings that I have seen in a long time. (spoiler alert of course) We finally see who Verge is as he takes Jack on a voyage through hell. It draws very obvious inspiration from Dante’s Inferno (Verge being Vergil) and we also see a real-life image of a painting portraying Dante and Vergil’s travels through hell. This is where we see the best scene of the film. Something that broke Jack down and for the first time made him feel remorse. It was such a powerful scene and it made the ending that much more intense. He gets a glimmer of hope as he sees a way out of hell he ends up falling much deeper into hell than he should have. It makes you feel like even though he finally ended up feeling remorse and sadness he still was doomed to suffer and now he suffers even more because he feels remorse.
Some of the negatives about the film are definitely the egotistical aspect but even that can be understandable (I’ll touch up on that later). I don’t know if it is on purpose but there is a part of the film where he adds scenes from his other films while talking about “the great art that has shaped us”. There were also scenes that were seemingly there to incite a negative emotion out of the audience but then again it was in the context of the film. At parts, it seems like he just wants to make people talk about it, even saying that he was inspired by the win of Trump to make it. But it really does not seem like that, as I said before it is not as disturbing as I thought that it would be, although it’s still really fucked up. It’s much more than shock factor, it’s a really brilliant movie.
All of that being said would I recommend this movie? I honestly don’t know, and not because it’s a dark and disturbing film. I heard so many things talked about this film saying it was very grotesque and disturbing but compared to a lot of films out there even some of his own it’s not that disturbing. I would not recommend it to people that are not familiar with his work. A good representation of the film is that it’s autobiographical and it was what I first got when I watched it so I think that you need to understand him in order to understand this work. A lot of the movie is centered around art and I think Von Trier was projecting his own art and how it is seen by people. It’s basically showing that he is willing to do anything to finish his art and he does not care what others think. He enjoys it and that’s why he does it, it’s beautiful in his own mind and he feels justification for doing it.
The political aspect is something that I did not pick up at first. I did not see the director’s cut but after seeing him talk about Trump it was more understandable. Jack has a superiority complex, he is a fantastic liar and he is able to lie his way to get whatever he wants which can be interpreted as a portrayal of a politician. While describing the events he always portrays the other people as inferior and dumber than him. One of the most chilling scenes of the films was when one of his victims was crying for help and not one person bothered to ever try and help her. This could be what Lars imagins the world to be, a dark place where people with power over others freely do whatever they want while the rest of us just sit there and watch it happen.
At the end of the day, I absolutely loved it. It has pretty much everything that I love in movies. Great acting, beautiful cinematography and thought-provoking dialogue and scenes and even though it has several issues it was definitely worth a watch. Any movie that makes me talk that much is a fantastic movie. There is even more that I did not cover in this post which I definitely want to talk about more but it would feel too much and I’m not really that experienced of a movie critic to give it justice.
Final verdict: 8/10