A teenager insinuates himself into the house of a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for his French teacher. Faced with this gifted and unusual pupil, the teacher rediscovers his enthusiasm for his work, but the boy’s intrusion will unleash a series of uncontrollable events.
For his thirteenth feature film, French New Wave director Francois Ozon has outdone all acclaim given to his 2002 remake of 8 Women with a mischievous and dysfunctional tale, of what can be perceived as… coming-of-age.
In the House is a black comedy/thriller conflated with so much grandeur from literary greats to post-modern poioumena, you cannot help but wave the white flag and just go along in service of jest.
Adapted from a brilliant play written by Juan Mayorgo, this film is a meta-narrative centered on Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer) — a sixteen year old loner who intrudes upon the home life of fellow student Rapha Jr., and writes about it. What begins as a one-off weekend assignment for literature class, escalates with great passion and frequency when Claude’s teacher, Germaine (Fabrice Luchini) detects flashes of talent and decides to groom the teenager.
Here, Ozon proposes a three-fold narrative weaving through the surface of three realities: 1) Germaine’s growing obsession with Claude’s story imitates 2) the viewers’ relationship with Ozon’s film (and perhaps soap opera addiction), and 3) Claude as a self-conscious narrator of the events occurring inside Rapha’s house.
When the film begins, Claude is unhappy with a lonely life and clearly needs to distract himself with wholesome family warmth. Having witnessed Rapha’s close relationship with his parents at the school gate (Rapha Sr. and Esther), he strikes a friendship with Rapha when semester begins. Cloaked as a helpful math tutor and study mate chock full of positive influence for Rapha, Claude succeeds in winning the family’s affections and trust.
But here’s the catch. Thrilled by this opportunity to experience life with a sense of belonging, yet predisposed to primitive urge, Claude’s desire swells into furtive yearning for Esther. And naturally, things get complicated.
As Germaine’s involvement with Claude’s writing departs from passive reader, to that of a story-telling coach superimposing rules of dramatic structure, it occurs to the viewer that Germaine may very well be a shaping hand in the outcome of this voyeuristic experiment.
Of course, the fabrics of fiction and reality overlap but they do not confuse — the satirical logic unfolds in ways that are thought-provoking, humorous and downright captivating.
LANGUAGE IN FRENCH