In the House (Dans la Maison)
Director: Francois Ozon
Cast: Kirsten Scott Thomas, Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Emmanuelle Seigner, Batien Ughetto, Denis Menochet
Country of Origin: France 2012
Genre: Mystery Drama
Language: French with English subtitles 105 mins.
'A clever narrative driven, brilliantly acted psychological drama that plays games with the audience and is quite spellbinding'.
Germain (Fabrice Luchini) teaches literature at the lycee, thinks of himself as steeped in the tradition of the literary masters, remains aloof from his fellow teachers whom he considers conventional thinkers and despairs at his pupil's lack of imagination. His wife Jeanne (Kirsten Scott Thomas) runs the Minotaur's Labyrinth contemporary art gallery and just about tolerates him. Reading an assignment from 16 year old Claude (Ernst Umhauer), one of his students titled 'What I did this Weekend' Germain is captivated by the phrase 'the singular smell of a middle class woman.' Claude writes of his fascination with fellow pupil Rapha (Batien Ughetto) and his loving middle class family and concludes with the phrase 'to be continued'. Germain is mesmerised and a strange bond is formed between teacher and pupil with Germain encouraging Claude to observe and chronicle the lives of the Artole family.
The acting is faultless. Ernst Umhauer is perfect as Claude the smiling manipulative interloper. Fabrice Luchini plays Germain the teacher outsmarted by his protege with a series of facial gestures that says it all and Kirsten Scott Thomas gives a beautifully controlled performance as Jeanne, struggling with a husband haunted by his failure as an author. Using the narrative, it plays games with the audience and it becomes difficult to distinguish reality from fiction. The essays become compulsive reading for Germain and Jeanne as Claude enters the lives of Rapha's father (Denis Menochet) and his bored mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner). Germaine is hooked. But when to stop ?
Loosely adapted from the play by Juan Mayorga 'The Boy in the Last Row' with the screenplay by Francois Ozon, this is elegant and sophisticated storytelling with touches of Bergman, Chabrol and Woody Allen (Match Point). The cinematography (Jerome Almeras) is excellent, the editing (Laure Gardette) is perfect and the script (Francois Ozon) in the hands of a great cast makes it all happen. It does loose its way a bit and perhaps the ending needs more structure but this is intelligent adult cinema. Black comedy at its best. Great movie.