In the House Reviews
"In the House" is a clever black comedy that touches on the obsessions of Brian De Palma and the subtleties of Hitchcock. With an adept premise at its disposal, the film constructs several different climaxes (some based in reality, some in fantasy) that act as tricks in a setting of stringed treats.
Ozon's direction is subversive and unpredictable; the situation begins with a comedic edge, but will it transform into a voyeuristic thriller? "In the House" keeps us on our toes at all times - even if it isn't necessarily a "thriller" per say, it contains the same uncomfortable silence, the same uncomfortable suspense.
It's the start of a new school year, and lit teacher Germain Germain (Fabrice Luchini) can feel unrest bubbling in his blood. When he assigns a "How I Spent My Last Weekend" essay, he is disappointed with the results. The majority of the kids are so apathetic that all they can muster is a few lines about how they ate pizza on Saturday and were too tired to do anything on Sunday.
But one student perks his interest: the smarmy Claude Garcia, who writes about his experience wriggling into the home of an affluent family he's been spying on. To him, they're picture perfect. When he becomes the tutor of the house's youngest member, the shy Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), he is simultaneously intrigued and mocking of their boring normalities. The paper ends simply with a to be continued.
Germain is troubled, but mesmerized. He seems to visualize a premise for a potentially successful novel, and immediately takes interest in Claude's writings. He wants his student to make that to be continued a reality. Germain once again finds enthusiasm for teaching, but when Claude proves to be much more perceptive and manipulative than he first appears to be, a chain of events trails on that means disaster for his instructor.
"In the House" is brilliantly constructed, seamless in a labyrinth of intricacies. It's amusing and dark; as Germain analyzes Claude's writings as though they were fiction, there is devious smirk on Claude's face; but then again, we're wearing that devious smirk too. Germain intermittently pushes his student to further develop the Rapha Sr. "character," or delve a little deeper into the psyche of his wife (Emmanuelle Seigner) - one can only hold their head in their hands in frustration that Germain can't seem to grasp the idea that these people are real, and the damage done is all the work of Claude.
Yet, Germain has had the same job for years, has been married for years, has kept the same routine going for years. In order to get some excitement into the atmosphere, he'd rather live the lives of seemingly average people just to avoid the ennui of his own. Luchini's performance is so convincing that we never see Germain with disappointment in our eyes; we instead see a man so caught up in escapism that he'd do anything to ride on its back.
Claude, however, is a willing subject. He slides along corridors hoping to catch a glimpse of something he shouldn't, he wishes to whiff another scent of a middle-class woman, as he so uncomfortably puts it. For the majority of the film, he carries a dashing arrogance that makes you want him to do bad; but just towards the end, we find him just as desperate to escape his own reality as Germain is. Umhauer is 50 shades of sinister, and the fact that we hope for something unspeakable to happen speaks volumes about his performance.
"In the House" jumbles up the trappings of suburban life and twists it into a gnarled exercise in underlying tension. The terror we feel never comes to a head, but we crave it.