Cannes Film Fest 2018: Von Trier’s Ban Lifted–The House That Jack Built Added to Lineup

April 18, 2018–Seven years after being declared persona non grata by the Cannes Film Fest for his “joking” remark about “sympathy with Hitler,” the provocative and controversial Lars von Trier will return to the Croisette with his new feature: The House That Jack Built.

Cannes Fest organizers finally revealed today that the film would be part of the program of the 71st edition, which runs May 8-19.

Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which had been mired in legal issues, is now set to serve as closing night.

Other additions to the official competition are Knife + Heart from Yann Gonzalez and starring Vanessa Paradis, Akya by Kazak director Sergey Dvortsevoy, and The Wild Pear Tree by Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

The House That Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as the eponymous Jack, a serial killer who goes on a 12-year murder spree in 1970s America. Uma Thurman, Riley Keough and Danish actress Sofie Grabol (The Killing) play Jack’s victims in the film.

Von Trier has described the film as dealing with “the idea that life is evil and soulless.”

Insiders who have seen footage from The House That Jack Built describe scenes of extreme brutality and violence, comparing it to von Trier’s graphic, controversial Antichrist, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Defoe.

A regular presence in Cannes, von Trier has won several awards: the Grand Jury Prize in 1996 for Breaking the Waves and the Palme d’Or in 2000 for his musical Dancer in the Dark, starring the Björk.

Björk is one of three women to get Cannes’ best actress for a von Trier film–Gainsbourg won for Antichrist in 2009 and Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia in 2011.

It was at the Cannes press conference for Melancholia that von Trier made his now-infamous comments. Responding to an innocuous question about his German roots, the director went on a riff that was rude and offensive.

“For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew,” he began. “Then I  met (Danish and Jewish director) Susanne Bier and I wasn’t so happy. But then I found out I was actually a Nazi. My family were German. And that also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand Hitler, I sympathize with him a bit.”

Von Trier qualified that “I don’t mean I’m in favor of World War II and I’m not against Jews, not even Susanne Bier,” before adding. “In fact I’m very much in favor of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain in the ass.…”  Melancholia stars Dunst and  Gainsbourg, sitting on either side of von Trier, were shocked when the director paused before stating: “Now how can I get out of this sentence? Ok. I’m a Nazi.”

Hours after the gala premiere of Melancholia, Cannes declared von Trier persona non grata. The festival, however, never banned von Trier’s films and, two years later, also dropped the personal ban. In reaction, von Trier wore at the Berlin Fest premiere of Nymphomaniac a T-shirt with the Cannes logo and the words “Persona Non Grata.”

The topic of The House That Jack Built — a serial killer massacring mainly, though not solely women — its inclusion in Cannes at the height of the #MeToo era will me make it even more controversial for another reason. Singer-actress Björk claims that the director intimidated and sexually harassed her during the shoot of of Dancer in the Dark, which von Trier has denied.