Suspense Movie

The House That Jack Built Narrative structure analysis: the fusion of classics and folk music

Lars von Till is a regular at film festivals and an anomaly in the minds of film fans. His every appearance is almost always accompanied by a big story.In 2011, Lars von Till was banned from Cannes for a long time because of his inappropriate comments about Nazis and Jews.However, seven years later, he returned to Cannes with his new film “This House is My Work”. Both his return to Cannes itself and his new film, which has lived up to expectations, have created a whirlwind in the film industry. What does “living up to expectations” mean? It means, of course, that “This House is Made of Me” still has the same, if not better, Von Till style of super-heaviness.

However, if it is only heavy, then it is only a B movie. What makes Lars von Till one of the masters of art cinema is that he frames the “anti-human” content in a complex and elaborate structure, and through this work, he recognizes the deepest sins on the planet.

This essay will analyze the film’s unique narrative structure. In fact, the form of This House is Mine is inseparable from the content. In a way, the film’s form even determines its height.

In this film, Lars von Till has adopted a composite narrative structure. At the same time, it has two components, both of which are almost exposed.

First of all, we can find the first component of this structure in the title of “This House is Made by Me”. The original English title of “I Built This House” is “The House That Jack Built”, meaning “The House That Jack Built”. It comes from the English ballad “This Is the House That Jack Built”.

The first three lines of the ballad are: “This is the house that Jack built; this is the malt that was put in the house that Jack built; this is the mouse that ate the malt that was put in the house that Jack built ……” and so on.

The ballad combines different messages through a set of subordinate clauses in a hierarchical structure. It is not actually about the story of Jack’s house, but about the relationship between these different elements.

However, in the third sentence, the connection between the elements of “mouse” and “Jack” is already very weak. The connection between the new elements and the old elements will become weaker and weaker as the subordinate clauses continue to stack up.

Lars von Till has already used this ballad in his feature film debut “The Element of Crime”. And in “This House is Made of Me,” the film that bears that name, he directly adopts the ballad’s narrative approach.

Jack has a goal that has always been on his mind – to build a house. He uses what seems to us to be a very far-fetched way: the materials of church architecture and art, linking architecture to murder. And then, he carries out his brutal massacres through the pretexts of “poetry” and “politics”.

The connection between these excuses and the different elements becomes more and more fragile and meaningless as the film progresses, just like the subordinate clause “that” in the ballad. We know that Jack wants to build a house, but we don’t know the ins and outs of that goal. We see that he keeps killing people, but we don’t know how he meets and chooses these victims.

In a way, “This House I Built” inherits the approach of this traditional ballad, but the film doesn’t seem as easy and scattered as the ballad. This is because he also stole the master from another place: without a doubt, that is Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Whether it’s the “Virgil” who talks to Jack from start to finish (Virgil is Dante’s guide in The Divine Comedy) or the oil-painted shots that parody Eugène Delacroix’s masterpiece Dante’s Boat, there is a clear reference to this classic work.

The narrative structure of The Divine Comedy has two rather distinctive features. One of them is the meta-narrative. In addition to the main story line of The Divine Comedy, there are many other stories, large and small, interspersed, each containing their own particular textual system.

And in “This Room is of My Making,” we see a similarly large number of meta-narratives, meta-images. We can see the return of other films by Lars von Till, we can see images of the famous Bach player Glenn Gould playing the piano, and we can see a reinterpretation of William Blake’s poems “The Tiger” and “The Lamb”.

The second characteristic of the Divine Comedy is the interplay of temporal and spatial structures. We see the main line of time in which Dante travels through the three worlds, chopped up by clearly delineated spatial scenes. These different spaces are independent of each other, and we can even see the juxtaposition of different time threads in a particular space.

Although film, unlike literature, naturally carries this narrative effect in itself. But in the hellish passage at the end of This House is Mine, we see Jack gazing at the mowing scene of his childhood memories in the same screen space, which directly responds to the temporal effect in The Divine Comedy.

These features of The Divine Comedy’s narrative structure assimilate the momentary and the eternal in the original work, allowing for the coexistence of different human histories and cultures. But in This Room Is My Making, they instead deepen our sense of despair due to the presence of the ballad structure.

If, in the ballad structure, Lars von Till places substantial elements, what he utilizes in the structure of “The Divine Comedy” are elements similar to conjunctions, subjunctive leads.

Putting it this way may be a bit abstract, so we can go back and continue to analyze the examples we mentioned in our elaboration of the ballad form. As the film progresses, the relationship between the so-called art and murder seems weaker and weaker, but he still adopts a “Godspell”-style meta-narrative, inserting elements that are external to the film, one after the other.

Thus, the connection, which originally only seemed somewhat thin and meaningless, suddenly seems absurd and ridiculous. Lars von Till uses black humor to fuse a sparse British ballad with a literary classic that has contributed so much.

One of the most amazing things about this is that if we were to describe one of the two as “absurd and ridiculous,” most people would undoubtedly choose the former. In This House I Made, however, the structural features of the Divine Comedy are instead the parts that create the absurdity.

In his heavily symbolic passages, “building a house” may have become a metaphor for religion, politics, war, art, and even the humanitarian goals of humanity.

But perhaps the most “heavy-handed” part of “I Built This House” is his subversive narrative structure. It suggests that human beings will always be meandering, always off-topic; always separated by a layer of glass, unable to reach the other shore in front of them; always falling down the steep cliff to hope, falling into the deepest hell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button