THIS is one of those classy French films that incorporate a variety of styles. It’s clever, witty and amusing; it
THIS is one of those classy French films that incorporate a variety of styles. It’s clever, witty and amusing; it grips and tantalises, and, above all, is totally absorbing, keeping you guessing till the end — and beyond — with the smart psychology of it all.
Germain, an unsuccessful novelist and literature teacher at a French lycée, has become increasingly disillusioned with the lacklustre offerings of his teenage students, especially their latest task to write about what they did at the weekend.
But he is jolted out of his inertia when one of the students — the gifted Claude Garcia — turns in an intriguing two-page essay on how he spent his weekend at the home of one of his classmates.
Claude (played with boyish charm by newcomer Ernst Umhauer) has been recce-ing Rapha’s home for months, wishing to see what goes on inside the house of a “perfect, middle-class” suburban family.
He finally inveigles his way in by offering to help Rapha with his maths. What follows is a weekly written update on Claude’s visits which fascinate Germain so much that he reads them to his wife Jeanne (the peerlessly chic Kristin Scott Thomas). She laps up the continuing family saga which begins to take on the mantle of a long-running soap opera.
It soon becomes evident that it’s more than maths that’s on Claude’s mind. While Rapha is working on his trigonometry, Claude likes to snoop, to earwig at doors and watch bedroom antics. And Rapha’s mother Esther is very attractive….
Germain, played with bemused and bewildered humour by Fabrice Luchini, is totally gripped (as are the audience) with Claude’s tales.
But as they become more fantastic, things take a disturbing turn for all concerned when he becomes embroiled in darker deeds. He begins to question Claude’s creativity and suggests alternative scenarios, asking the teenager how he plans to continue and what will be the final payoff.
The clever twist in this highly watchable film is deciding what is real and what is imagination. Are Claude’s writings merely illusions or did the events really happen? They are plausible enough and we in the audience are drawn into the delicious intrigue from the off.
But how much effect has Germain’s mentoring had on Claude’s creativity? Who is he writing for? Himself or his reader? An interesting question.
Film: In The House — French with subtitles
Director: François Ozon
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer