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In the House

Dans la maison 2012 | 105 min | R | 1.85:1

In the House


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Movie appeal

Psychological thriller13%
Dark humor-



Theatrical release date

 19 April, 2013
 29 March, 2013

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In the House Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 9, 2013

Continuing his barbed but playful filmmaking interests as of late, writer/director Francois Ozon works his way to an exploration of voyeurism with his latest effort, “In the House.” Playing to the helmer’s strengths as it details obsession and mental gamesmanship, the feature is a riveting endeavor that blurs the line between fact and fiction, working as delicious commentary on the mechanics of literary manipulation while managing a peculiar complexity as a tale of depressed people avoiding their own realities. It’s amusing and unexpected, capturing the compulsive spirit of writing with wit and attention to mischief that keeps it unpredictable to the very end.

A bored, defeated high school literary teacher who’s grown to despise his students, Germain (Fabrice Luchini) aches to find any spark of inspiration from these young minds. His request is granted with writing turned in by Claude (Ernst Umhauer), a particularly gifted student using homework assignments to weave an uneasy tale of friendship with classmate Ralpha (Bastien Ughetto), using his time as a tutor to observe the household dynamic, drawn to lonely mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner). Working to help shape the boy’s technique and release his imagination, Germain is hopelessly drawn to the story, sharing weekly updates with wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), who’s caught in a professional tailspin when her hopes to launch a provocative art gallery have fizzled. Losing themselves in the questionable details of Claude’s serialized writing, Germain and Jeanne manage to avoid their own dysfunction, championing the boy’s story as a way to live inside the dramatic whirlwind of another.

The director of the sultry mystery “Swimming Pool,” Ozon is not one to allow his audience easy access to the malfunction of his characters. “In the House” (based on a theatrical effort from Juan Mayorga) toys with the perception of reality, sustaining a beguiling note of suspicion for the duration of the feature. Is Claude’s story real? It’s a question that defines the screenplay, watching Germain give himself wholeheartedly to the boy’s evolving yarn, relishing time with bullied Ralpha and his loving but conflicted parents, drinking in their troubles as Claude labors to infiltrate their dwelling through manipulation, finding himself with an unlikely best friend in his schoolmate and an object of desire in Esther (an aptly cast Seigner). It could be curiosity driving the writer to delve deeper into the family dynamic, or perhaps the writing represents a form of control, developing fiction as a way to mastermind an eventful life Claude will never possess.

“In the House” largely avoids a quest for truth, preferring to inspect the comfort of exploitation, watching Germain attempt to sharpen Claude’s gifts along the way, teaching him about classic structure and the abuse of cliches, with this academic deconstruction quickly fed back into the story, polished by Ozon. The filmmaker plays with voyeuristic fantasies, creating a satiric rush to an otherwise static comedy, fussing with intellectual appraisal while Claude indulges lustful intentions and easy sympathies with Esther, pumping melodrama into his chapters, utterly hypnotizing his mummified teacher. “In the House” has a sly way of narrative advancement, especially when Germain and Jeanne buy Claude’s world in full, revealing the cracks in their own marriage after years avoiding obvious analysis, returning the tale to a humane position of vulnerability after carrying on with the lives of others.

Ozon downplays an overt game of puzzling to weave through the unreality of it all, making “In the House” approachable with its charismatic stars and addiction to traditional aspects of fiction. The script does a competent job pulling viewers into the mystery at hand, though character remains a top priority, studying the shock of daylight striking the personalities once comforting shrouds of routine are pulled away. It’s a sharp picture that wears it influences proudly (concluding with a terrific nod to “Rear Window”), guided with an impish Ozon spirit that delights in the fog of confusion, pushing a question of certainty on the viewer for final analysis.

Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: François Ozon

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