Screened as part of NZIFF 2013
In François Ozon’s juicy black comedy-drama schoolteacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini, as drolly doleful as ever) and art dealer Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas, as poised and incisive) play a jaded married couple seduced by the story-telling talents of a precocious young student. Claude (Ernst Umhauer), it transpires, is not only a spellbinding writer, he is also a first-class undercover spy and voyeur. He has inveigled himself into the household of Rapha, a rather gormless schoolmate, in order to furnish himself with narrative material – and indulge his fascination with Rapha’s gorgeous mother (Emmanuelle Seigner). Captivated by the vicarious thrill of it all, the reckless Germain encourages his protégé’s violations of Rapha’s trust to tease out more revealing stories.
As the inevitable complications multiply, Ozon offers a mordant take on the amorality and unreliability of the author, himself included. He layers the tales and the telling of them so that we’re never entirely sure what’s actually happening chez Rapha, and what Claude is making up to entice Germain and Jeanne (for whom the stories have become a titillating bedtime serial). Freely adapted by Ozon from Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga’s The Boy in the Last Row, this is a much more finely tuned vehicle than his recent Potiche, perfectly cast and very deftly delivered.
“It seems not just against the odds but against the laws of nature that a film as bookish, as suburban, and as self-consciously clever as In the House should also be such fun.” — Anthony Lane, New Yorker