MPAA Says ‘House That Jack Built’ Showings Broke Ratings Rules

The one-night-only showing of the director's cut of Lars von Trier's controversial serial killer film could lead to sanctions against IFC, MPAA says.

Lars Von Trier
Matthias Nareyek / Getty Images

The one-night-only showing of the director's cut of Lars von Trier's controversial serial killer film could lead to sanctions against IFC, MPAA says.

It’s not often these days for a movie showing to cause so much trouble that it leads to sanctions from the motion picture industry’s governing body. But then again, Lars Von Trier has always been something of a troublemaker.

Cinemas around the U.S. on Wednesday night hosted one-night-only screenings of the director’s cut of The House That Jack Built, the oft-controversial Danish filmmaker’s latest film. The film tells the story of a serial killer played by actor Matt Dillon, and the version shown Wednesday night was both longer and more gory than the R-rated version of the film that will come out in theaters and on video-on-demand December 14.

And apparently, exhibiting the film that way represented a violation of the Motion Picture Association of America’s rules.

According to Deadline, the MPAA has contacted the film’s distributor, IFC, to inform them that “the screening of an unrated version of the film in such close proximity to the release of the rated version – without obtaining a waiver – is in violation of the rating system’s rules. The effectiveness of the MPAA ratings depends on our ability to maintain the trust and confidence of American parents. That’s why the rules clearly outline the proper use of the ratings. Failure to comply with the rules can create confusion among parents and undermine the rating system – and may result in the imposition of sanctions against the film’s submitter.”

The MPAA’s rules allow it to revoke the previously issued rating for a film that violates its rules.

The House That Jack Built debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last May after Von Trier had been banned from the festival for several years when he made comments about Nazis while promoting his film Melancholia in 2011. In addition to Dillon, Uma Thurman and Riley Keough are also in the film.

The MPAA’s ratings practices have always been somewhat shrouded in mystery, although the New York Times last week published an interview with Joan Graves, the longtime head of the organization’s ratings board, upon her upcoming retirement. When asked about any ratings judgments of the past that she regrets, Graves gave a surprising answer: The 2011 Pixar Animation Studios film Cars 2, which was rated G.

“We rated it G and from all the feedback we realized PG would have been more suitable,” Graves said, likely in reference to the film’s James Bond-style spy plot, which included several assassination attempts against cars.