In the House (Dans La Maison) (4 stars)

In the House (Dans La Maison)

Fascinating new offering from French filmmaker Francois Ozon.

A sparkling and superbly acted black comedy, Francois Ozon’s In the House is a fascinating companion piece to Ian McEwan’s new novel Sweet Tooth, in its exploration of both creating and consuming fiction. The wonderfully deadpan Fabrice Luchini plays jaded high-school teacher Germain, who’s married to modern art gallery owner Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas). Setting his students a simple ‘what did you do this weekend?’ assignment, Germain is fascinated by the essay delivered by Claude (newcomer Ernst Umhauer), which articulates his desires to infiltrate the household of a bourgeois classmate and to become closer to the latter’s attractive mother (Emmanuelle Seigner). Soon, in encouraging the literary efforts of this teenager, Fabrice and his wife became strangely compelled by the youth’s audacious storytelling.

Freely adapted from the play The Boy in the Back Row by Spanish writer Juan Mayorga, In the House effortlessly shifts between genres, tones and styles, thus becoming an inquiry into this gifted if erratic filmmaker’s whole career. It’s crammed with amusing references to previous Ozon films (not least Sitcom, Angel and Swimming Pool), to literature (Germain’s bed-time reading includes Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents and Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night) and to the contemporary art scene: among the exhibits at Jeanne’s ‘Minotaur’s Labyrinth’s gallery are blow-up dictator sex dolls and handbags made of car tyres. Shot and edited with real cinematic flair, this is no dusty piece of filmed theatre. The frequent dissolves, the visual motifs of windows and mirrors, and the key location of an immaculate suburban house that opens on to a park, help blur the lines of ‘reality’ and fantasy for characters and spectators alike. Highly recommended.

Showing at London Film Festival Sun 14, Tue 16 and Sun 21 Oct. On release in Mar 2013.

In the House (Dans la maison)

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • France
  • 1h 45min
  • 15
  • Directed by: François Ozon
  • Cast: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas
  • UK release: 29 March 2013

High-school teacher Germain (Luchini) sets his students an assignment to write about what they did that weekend, but then Claude (Umhauer) writes about his desire to infiltrate a classmate’s household. Ozon’s new film is a sparkling black comedy, effortlessly shifting between genres, tones and styles. Highly recommended.