22 July 2013

In The House (Dans La Maison) DVD Review

Rating: 15
DVD Release Date:
22nd July 2013 (UK)
Fran├žois Ozon
Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas
Buy: [Blu-ray] [DVD]

A talented pupil and a frustrated teacher. A tale as old as time and a mainstay of cinema ever since Robin Williams received a table striding declaration of support in Dead Poet’s Society. Francois Ozon’s In The House uses this well worn template to blur the lines between fantasy and reality, bringing an uneasy dynamic to the classroom drama.

Having scored his biggest UK hit to date last time out with gender role comedy Potiche, Ozon’s follow-up eschews the laughs in favour of a return to the more ambiguous tone found in his earlier works. It’s also as much a paean to the power of our imagination as it is a tale of mentor and student.

Fabrice Luchini shakes off the misogynous mindset instilled in his role of Catherine Denevue’s husband in Potiche to play literature teacher Mr Germain, returning to school for another year of uninspiring works from unenthused students. Or so it is until a routine ‘how I spent my weekend’ assignment unearths a rare nugget of promise among his apathetic class. While the majority of hand-ins recount the mundane adolescence of video games, pizza’s and wasted Sunday’s, one student, Claude (a suitably creepy Ernst Umhauer), bucks the trend by regaling a somewhat sinister account of voyeurism. Under the premise of maths tutorage, Claude talks his way into the home of fellow classmate Rapha, observing and rather disparagingly depicting the model middle-class life on show. Instantly catching the literary eye of Germain, Claude takes his attention for encouragement, returning time and again to this suburban ideal to portray the life behind those doors, in the house.

The comfortably domestic lives of Germain and wife Jeane (Kristen Scott-Thomas) are given a new distraction, evenings now spent ingesting and dissecting the latest work from the star pupil. While Germain, slightly in awe of his potential-laden student, somewhat neglects his teacher duties in overlooking the increasingly concerning tone of the passages, it is left to () to point out the glaring dangers of such obsessive voyeurism. Indeed it is she who at times understands the works on a far greater level than her book-loving husband.

Taking Claude under his wing, Germain gives Ozon the chance to go conduct a literature 101 class. Structures, rules and questions of authorship are all mulled over. This is literature with a capital L, to be discussed, debated and considered. It’s also where Ozon seems to be having most fun. Placing us within Claude’s writing as well as the world outside, Ozon toys with our (and Germain’s) perception of what is real what is fiction and what is pure teenage fantasy. It’s a theme he embellishes with a lightweight subplot for Scott-Thomas’s art curator. Her under threat gallery has it’s fate in the hands of two ill-informed and unappreciative identical twins with the varying works that pass through offering Ozon another chance to touch upon further themes of authorship and creative ownership.

It’s a film that encourages us to become the voyeurs, the ending an invitation to mimic the leads – peeking behind the curtain and imagining the lives being carried out. In these hands people watching takes on a whole new mindset, transcending into an art form from which great works can appear. It’s a notion that outshines the film itself, ultimately In The House never quite engrosses as much as one of the stories from the pen of it’s young lead.


Matthew Walsh

No comments:

Post a comment