In The House is a great film betrayed by its trailer. In an attempt to convey a more conventional and safe narrative, the trailer twists the plot out of shape with misleading edits, seemingly unable to articulate the bold yet complex story of the film. In The House should be celebrated for its intelligent filmmaking and riveting story, and is perhaps one of the most surprising films this year.
The cast sail through the film with a grace and natural talent that lends a chilling authenticity to the story. Fabrice Luchini plays Germain, an ambitiously-exhausted literature teacher, despairing at the calibre of talent in his class until he finds a strikingly well-written piece by faceless student Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer). Claude has ingratiated himself in to the ‘perfect family’ of his friend Rapha, and through subterfuge and manipulation, gradually tears the family apart, all of which he spins out in to an essay for Germain. As Claude develops and experiments with his writing style, the reality of the story blurs until we no longer recognise the truth of the situation; affairs, suicides, sex and violence are all dangled before us with no indication as to what is real.
What starts as an innocent tale soon begins to affect Germain, and his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), the only audience to Claude’s actions and secrets. Soon the pair find themselves woven in to the fabric of Claude’s story and consequences begin to pile up leading to an astonishing and, once again, cheekily ambiguous finale.
Director François Ozon crafts a witty and sophisticated darkly-comic thriller that defies genre, and constantly teases the expectations of the audience. It’s an interesting experience to find yourself at the hands of a puppet master during the film, but that is what In The House reveles in. The film plays with the boundaries between fact and fiction, daring the viewer to draw their own conclusions and unravel the narrative for themselves. It’s a difficult task to take on, but it is not an unpleasant one.
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