The first audience for Lars Von Trier’s stomach-churning new film about a serial killer (Matt Dillon) found it so disturbing, there were mass walkouts at the Cannes Film Festival.
In Vulture‘s blow-by-bloody-blow of “The House That Jack Built,” critic Kyle Buchanan details the many gruesome acts the main character visits on his human victims. He also speculated that the onscreen maiming of a duckling might be all too real.
That’s understandable, considering that in 2004, Von Trier notoriously slaughtered a live donkey on set for his film “Manderlay,” prompting actor John C. Reilly to walk off the film, rather than take part.
But while the controversy-courting filmmaker seems least likely to earn a “No Animals Were Harmed”* credit, PETA says they have confirmed that the bird was not hurt in real life.
The official statement from PETA:
Following numerous calls about a scene in Lars von Trier’s film ‘The House That Jack Built,” in which a young child uses a pair of pliers to cut a duckling’s leg off, PETA has confirmed that the ‘leg’ was created using movie magic and silicone parts. While depictions of gratuitous violence like this may leave viewers sickened, it’s true that serial killers, like the character in the film, often get their start by first torturing animals, making the scene all the more realistic and disturbing. PETA is also happy to report that the images of tigers in the movie were from stock footage, yet again proving that there’s no need to use live wild animals in productions, thanks to the many humane alternatives being embraced by filmmakers today.
The film also features a scene where Jack takes a woman and her two sons hunting for deer: They learn to their horror that the deer are not his actual target.
Von Trier (who was banned from Cannes for several years for his pro-Nazi statements) makes his films in his native Denmark, which is obviously outside the domain of monitoring organizations such as American Humane Association (*who have trademarked the phrase “No Animals Were Harmed”).
IFC purchased the US rights to “The House That Jack Built” before its Cannes debut.