Showing posts with label Ernst Umhauer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ernst Umhauer. Show all posts

22 July 2013

In The House (Dans La Maison) DVD Review

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Rating: 15
DVD Release Date:
22nd July 2013 (UK)
François 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

24 February 2013

GFF 2013: In The House (Dans La Maison) Review

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In the House, François Ozon's first directorial feature since the magnificent, Potiche, sees him once again team-up with Fabrice Luchini for equally strong results.

Germain (Luchini), a literature teacher receives essays from student, Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), confessing his desire to visit the perfect family home of one of his classmates. As these essays grow more troubling, Germaine is unable to distinguish between fiction and reality, suspecting the motivations of the manipulative Claude.

Part of the pleasure of Ozon's feature comes from the ever-shifting tones, with In the House blurring the lines between psychological thriller, drama and comedy seamlessly. Every genre that the director delves into is handled with the utmost confidence, making the many twists and turns that Ozon's rich screenplay (based on Juan Mayorga's stage play) takes us on, all the more thrilling.

Using the dual narrative of Claude's stories and real life allows for Ozon to have a lot of fun. Watching Germain's paranoia as he grows continually more infatuated with Garcia's stories, so much so that he begins to lose his grip on reality, makes for thrilling viewing. The audience eventually becomes like Germain and Claude, voyeurs looking into the Artole Family home, where we discover that despite Claude's first thoughts, they are very far from the perfect family. There's a sinister energy generated by this voyeurism, mainly sourcing from Claude's fantasies surrounding the Artole Matriarch, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner), culminating in an almost Gothic sequence where Claude stays over night at the family home. These dark psychological thrills strike parallels with Ozon's earlier feature, the masterfully unsettling Swimming Pool.

In the House is not a completely dark watch, Ozon gives occasional moments of playful humour. These mainly stem from Fabrice Luchini's staggeringly brilliant performance - Luchini is truly an actor gifted with a great versatility, being equally convincing at both light comic elements and heavier dramatic material. Many of these laughs come from Luchini's scenes with on-screen wife, Kristin Scott Thomas who runs an exhibit at a local art gallery, which Germain dubs "Art for perverts." The actress heads a stellar supporting cast which also includes Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Ménochet and a wonderfully sinister turn from newcomer, Ernst Umhauer.

In the House is a truly absorbing watch, thanks to an inventive screenplay providing us with a mix of mysterious psychological thrills, well-paced drama and some light comic flourishes. Ozon handles these elements with his ingenuity, wit and competence, allowing for some standout performances from Luchini, Umhauer &Thomas.

Andrew McArthur


Stars: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas , Emmanuelle Seigner
Director: François Ozon
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Release: 21st February 2013 (Glasgow Film Festival)29th March 2013 (UK)