In The House - Review
Review by Sarah Essa
THEY say a director makes 20 versions of the same film over the course of their career. François Ozon hasn’t reached that number yet but we can certainly see an extension of his breakthrough Swimming Pool in his latest offering, In The House.
The film tells the story of the friendship that develops between schoolteacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini) and 16-year-old student Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer) as he submits chapters to Germain of his voyeuristic adventures in the family home of his classmate, Rapha Artole.
We know this is a film about the meshing of art and reality with the opening shot of the school quite un-subtly named after the famous French author Gustave Flaubert. This is followed by a humorous sequence with Germain reading to his wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), student essays he is marking describing what they did on the weekend, which largely involve watching television and eating pizza.
Germain then stumbles across an intriguing essay written by Claude Garcia describing his habit of stalking the ‘perfect’ family home of his classmate, Rapha, and his deep yearning to enter the house.
Following this essay, a regular correspondence develops, with Claude submitting further chapters detailing his experiences in the Artole house and Germain offering private coaching sessions to improve Claude’s writing.
Thus, the moral dilemma of the film is planted – the balance of risks and responsibilities in the pursuit of artistry. Teaching in a school named after Flaubert, ironically surrounded by kids about as inspiring as ants, Germain has found a literary diamond in the rough – but where do his ethical responsibilities as a teacher stand when Claude’s chapters become more sinister towards the Artole family?
Should he remain passive or comply with Claude’s correspondence, who is becoming a better writer just as his experiences in the house become darker? The question to the audience is simple – we all enjoy a good story but what are you willing to endure to get it?
Imagination is a parasite that feeds from not just any reality but from chaos and conflict.
Ozon incorporates an interesting power play at the heart of this dilemma between Germain and Claude with Fabrice Luchini and Ernst Umhauer delivering great performances alongside a compelling soundtrack by Phillipe Rombi.
Ozon, however, is the real star here behind In The House‘s success, meddling with similar territory of the blurring of fact and fiction that made the ending to Swimming Pool so exciting.
Yet on this occasion, the director has gone that extra mile, employing innovative methods such as freeze framing to let the audience in on the secret that everything they see may not actually be real. This exhilarates as the climax nears.
In Claude’s own words, ‘there is always a way into every house’, and with this, I invite you to take a good look at In The House.
In French, with subtitles
Running Time: 105
UK Release Date: March 29, 2013