Wednesday 27 March 2013

In The House Review

Director and co-writer François Ozon's (Potiche) Dans la Maison (In The House) doesn't begin in a house but in a classroom as disillusioned French literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini) starts another school year. Germain's disenchantment with the quality of work his students produce, particularly in creative writing, is exasperated by the schools adoption of new teaching techniques and reinstating the more traditional concept of having a school uniform.

In a sea of uninterested mediocrity, a student Claude (Ernst Umhauer) piques Germain's teaching interest when the 16 year olds writing assignment ends with an intriguing 'to be continued.' Centring his story 'in the house' of his mathematically challenged classmate Rapha Junior (Jean-François Balmer) Claude offers to be his after school tutor thus allowing himself a pretext to enter thehousehold he has observed throughout the Summer.

Dans La Maison plays with the concept of fiction and narration itself blurring the lines between what Claude is writing and the reality of the situation. Germain becomes more involved in Claude's writing and the story due to the boys' serialisation of events. The jaded teacher brings his work home with him as he has his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) reads the stories. The couple speculates on the nature of the story and writing with the back drop of Jeanne's art gallery possibly being closed.

 The story oscillates between the funny and potentially unnerving with Scott Thomas' ever escalating plundering of artistic extremes being a major contributor to the films humour. One simply hasn't lived until one has seen a (female) air doll of Chairman Mao or a phallic swastika painting. However, the film has a deceptively light tone and increases it's shades of grey as Claude's real motivations begin to surface.

A mixture of precocious talent and adolescent desire creates Claude's depiction of Rapha Junior's mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner) and father Rapha Senior (Denis Ménochet).  What is real and what is fiction is constantly asked of the audience as Germain's reader participation is increased more and more. Some might feel that Dans la Maison has an unsatisfactory ending but the ambiguity has been signalled pleasingly throughout the film. All the leads, particularly Ernest Umhauer, walk the fine line of toying with the audience in terms of being an unreliable narrator which is at the centre of Dans la Maison.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

In The House (Dans La Maison). France 2012. Directed by Francois Ozon. Starring Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Ernest Umhauer... Out in the UK on the 29th of March 2013

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