Lars von Trier in The Five Obstructions

Koch Lorber Films

If you were concerned that Lars von Trier had come out of his self-imposed media isolation (since 2011) to share assuredly bizarre news with the world, soothe your worries, because he had Stellan Skarsgard and Nymphomaniac producer Louise Vesth do the dirty work for him.

During the Venice Film Festival press conference for Nymphomanic: Vol. II — Director’s Cut, which von Trier declined to attend in person, Vesth shared brief details on the filmmaker’s next project (even cranky artists who aren’t too fond of reporters need to get the word out somehow). Deadline relayed the announcement that von Trier is tackling an “unprecedented” English language TV series with an enormous international cast called The House That Jack Built. According to Vesth, it will be “something you have never seen before and something you will definitely never see again.” While that is completely believable, the plot details aren’t available yet. Von Trier is in the process of writing the series for a 2016 shoot.

Although we’ll be waiting a little while before this materializes, the show’s executive producer, Peter Aalbæk Jensen, still urged everyone that “you better hold your breath.” What exactly is von Trier cooking up here? While he’s danced with television before, his best work was back in 1994 when he helmed the brilliant Danish fantasy and horror miniseries The Kingdom. That series, which centers upon a Copenhagen hospital where supernatural happenings occur, was a massive success for the filmmaker. There’s a real possibility, knowing von Trier, that the new series is going to be just as strange and surreal as that — and anything else that’s ever come out of that hall of nightmares he calls a brain.

It’s a little frightening to think about what a show with a premise we’ve never seen before and will never see again means in terms of what von Trier thinks it means, but it’s going to be intriguing seeing the results. For now, let’s explore the one detail we really know: the title. The House That Jack Built is likely referring to the British nursery rhyme “This Is the House That Jack Built,” which has been referenced in countless books,  television shows, movies, songs and derivative children’s stories. It’s the simple story of a farmhouse and the events that all get interlinked as they lead back to it, from a rat eating cheese that was inside the house, to a couple getting married in town who also look after a few of the animals always trying to return home.

Von Trier could be using it as foundation to set up that huge international cast to interact, always coming back to a central point, the “Jack’s house” of his story. Except, you know, something dark and terrible and maybe featuring some tasteful graphic nudity if you’re into that kind of thing. Or it’s just a TV adaptation of the Metallica song. That too.

Von Trier currently has a couple other projects to keep on eye on as we wait for the series, including an action movie and a horror film called Detroit. He’s busy, and that’s promising.


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