Warning: This article contains graphic content and spoilers for the film The House that Jack Built.
Dozens of people have walked out of the premiere of a new serial killer film at the Cannes Film Festival over its graphic depiction of two children being shot to death.
The House that Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as Jack, a deranged murderer who targets women and children, and was written and directed by controversial Danish director Lars von Trier.
The film made its debut at Cannes on Wednesday (Tuesday local time) and attendees reported “more than 100 people” left the cinema after one scene showed a mother and her two children being murdered and mutilated.
— Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) May 14, 2018
Variety journalist Ramin Setoodeh tweeted: “The scene that led to the walkouts of The House That Jack Built had Matt Dillon aiming a rifle at two small children, blowing their heads off. Why did #Cannes2018 let this film in the festival?”
“It’s disgusting,” Setoodeh reported one woman as saying.
New York Magazine senior editor Kyle Buchanan said a fleeing audience member told him: “He mutilates Riley Keough, he mutilates children … and we are all there in formal dress expected to watch it?”
According to Buchanan, the scene in question is filmed through the “periscope of Dillon’s rifle as he trains it on the children and pulls the trigger”.
“Once they are slain, Dillon lays the boys on the picnic cloth and forces their distraught mother to spoon-feed them lunch, then goes after her, too,” Buchanan wrote for Vulture.
“Von Trier reeeeeally lingers on the children’s corpses here, panning up and down their bodies as though he were directing a lascivious advertisement.”
Another controversial scene depicts Jack using scissors to cut off a duckling’s leg – a scene that appears disturbingly real.
“Initial reports of extreme ultra-violence were *wildly* overstated … except the thing with the duck. If the duck wasn’t faked I’ll never forgive von Trier,” Indiewire film critic David Ehrlich tweeted.
Walked out on LarsvonTrier . Vile movie. Should not have been made. Actors culpable
— Showbiz 411 (@showbiz411) May 14, 2018
Bizarrely, however, the remaining audience members gave the film a standing ovation.
“As someone sitting near me put it: ‘They’ll clap for anything’,” Setoodeh tweeted of the Cannes audience.
Von Trier is well known for pushing the envelope with his films and his work is famously divisive – as some on Twitter pointed out, “I’m confused by people walking out of a Lars von Trier Film as if they expected something totally different from him?”.
His 2009 film Antichrist prompted laughter, walkouts and booing at its Cannes premiere and in 2011 he famously claimed to be a Nazi and to “understand Hitler” at a Cannes news conference for his film Melancholia.
The festival board subsequently voted to make him a persona non grata after those controversial comments and von Trier has stayed away from the festival until this year.