4 stars
Parisian filmmaker Francois Ozon has a taste for the heady, homoerotic literary thriller. 2003’s acclaimed The Swimming Pool charted the meltdown of Charlotte Rampling’s author under the challenge of the troubling, and much younger, Ludvine Sagnier. In Juan Mayorga’s gripping play about a teacher undone by his talented, mischief-making pupil, Ozon found an excellent match for his interests and talent. The result is jaw-droppingly good, to say the least.

Sixteen year old Claude (Umhauer) jumps to the front of M. Germain’s French class when the long-suffering teacher (Luchini) is provoked by his student’s homework. The ‘what I did at the weekend’ essay had verve, excitement and above all, a cliff hanger. He urges the boy to write more and within days he and his wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) are living vicariously through Claude’s desire to see inside his friend Rapha’s house. Why, and how, will have profound consequences.

Ozon’s capacity to draw us to stand where Germain stands is extraordinary. As the teacher (Fabrice Luchini hits a perfect note of vulnerability, culpability, jealousy and humour) and his wife – each are struggling with a relative lack of success, each see such possibility in the boy – push him to go further as the lines of acceptability become blurred. The question of who is the master and who the puppet in this increasingly ghoulish tale grows darker as we all become embroiled in deeds most foul. No one escapes unscathed. It’s very telling.

For as Germain requests more chapters about Claude’s unhealthy interest in the house and its family, he unleashes events that could undo them all. Or will they? The author’s willingness to revise history raises immediate questions about the veracity of anything he’s written. So if the increasingly troubling story is just that, fantasy, Germain, and by extension, us, have nothing to worry about. However... And it’s that ‘however’ which makes Ozon’s work so chillingly good.

The director keeps a firm hand on both scale and emotion without letting the story’s creepy gothic heart overwhelm the film. Even when he gleefully breaks the fourth wall and compounds that surprise with a couple of sudden gear changes, In The House (Dans La Maison) doesn’t lose its intensity. Instead, it provokes a lively discussion about the role of story-telling and our morbid fascination for another's misery. In so doing it raises the biggest, and most fascinating question of all: who will take responsibility for the onscreen carnage? The boy? The teacher? Ozon ? Or you?


Previewed at Sony Theatrette, Sydney, on 13 June 2013



Ernst Umhauer
Fabrice Luchini
Kristen Scott Thomas
Bastien Ughetto

Françcois Ozon

Françcois Ozon

France (subtitles)


105 minutes

June 27, 2013
In the House (2012) on IMDb
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