François Ozon follows up the camp charm of Potiche (2010) with In the House (2012) – a delightfully droll tale of suburban voyeurism with a dark comic twist. Germain (Fabrice Luchini in impeccable comic form) is a childless English teacher who has grown increasingly disenfranchised at the appalling literary skills of his students. That is until one day, whilst grading a collection of predictably appalling ‘What I did last weekend’ essays, he discovers Claude (Ernst Umhauer), whose curious tale of how he infiltrated the suburban home of a middle class family quickly escalating into a series of enthralling essays.
Finally faced with a gifted pupil, Germain finds a new lease for teaching, however as the story continues to develop, so to does the sinister undertones of this unnerving tale, leading to a series of uncontrollable and deeply damaging events. Characterised by the same sharp satirical wit and frankness towards sexuality which has become synonymous with his work, Ozon’s In the House is a delightfully playful example of narrative and meta-narrative coalescing – blurring fact and fiction into an incredibly mischievous deconstruction of the storytelling process.
This multifaceted approach to storytelling gives the film a re-watchable element, with each twist and turn the combination of countless layers of hard work and intelligent plotting. Much like Claude’s indescribable work – is it a middle-class satire, a coming of age tale of a story of unrequited love? In the House constantly asks its audience to question its own genre. With Germain constantly asking Claude “Who is he writing for?” and “What is his characters motivation?” Ozon’s film draws the audience into a literature lesson whilst quietly masquerading as a melodramatic comedy.
A dark, almost Chabrolian comedy, the humour that drives In the House forward is delightfully charming, helped in no small part by the performances of Luchini and Kristin Scott Thomas as a constantly clashing married couple, with both these fantastically well rounded characters the link between Claude’s experimental prose and the book-lovers who may one day read it. Through their constantly engaging performances, the film’s literary flights of fancy and framed narrative sumptuously blur into one inseparable form, examining the complex relationship between the reader and the author – or perhaps, in this case, the director and audience.
A sharp, smart and incredibly enjoyable romp, In the House is a fabulous example of intelligent comedy working hard to deliver both drama and laughter – a sublime examination of the creative process that somehow manages to enthral and entertain in equal measure.
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