Brow Beat

Director’s Cut of Lars von Trier’s Serial-Killer Drama The House That Jack Built Delayed After Ratings Board Controversy

Matt Dillon's serial killer drags a corpse in The House That Jack Built.
The House That Jack Built.
IFC Films

If you happened to catch the Nov. 28 screening of Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built, good news: Your bragging rights will now last for several months. Jack’s distributor, IFC Films, originally planned to release von Trier’s unrated director’s cut, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, on-demand on Dec. 14, while releasing an R-rated version in theaters on the same day. But the MPAA, the industry watchdog which issues those ratings, said that IFC’s original plan—which would have allowed viewers to digitally rent the R-rated cut and offered the uncut version for digital purchase—was “in violation of the ratings system’s rules,” and threatened sanctions, which could have included excluding IFC from the ratings process for up to 90 days. (Most major exhibition chains will not show a film without an MPAA rating.) As a result, IFC has scrapped plans to release the director’s cut next week, according to a publicist, and tentatively rescheduled that release for June. The R-rated cut, some four minutes shorter, will be released in theaters and for digital rental as planned.

The House That Jack Built received polarized reviews at Cannes, which is nothing new for von Trier, with many critics wincing at its graphic depiction of the murders of two boys and a female victim’s brutal mutilation—although the storied French journal Cahiers du Cinéma did place the film on its Top 10 films of 2018. But if you’re going to see a Lars von Trier movie about a serial killer in the first place, it stands to reason you know you’re in for an extreme experience, and it’s hard to imagine von Trier diehards settling for anything less.