A high school teacher (Fabrice Luchini, The Women on the 6th Floor) asks his students to write an essay and one of his pupils (newcomer Ernst Umhauer, The Monk) decides to write about his visits to a classmate’s household. Fascinated by the boy’s observations, the teacher encourages the student to keep writing about the family and, as they say, this is just the beginning of the story…
Reaction & Thoughts:
Engrossing, multi-layered and suspenseful quasi-thriller kept me on the edge of my seat for about two-thirds of the movie. In the House (aka Dans la maison) does lose momentum and the ending is a bit unsatisfying, but what an interesting movie! There is so much food for thought here.
In the House was directed by François Ozon (Under the sand and Swimming Pool), who is known for his slow-burn dramas. In typical Ozon fashion, the story is painted with soft strokes. In an era of hyperactive cinema, it’s kind of brave to make a movie that is determined not to show its cards all at once.
This French import deals with a variety of very interesting and topical issues. First, the movie explores ethics in academia. How far can a teacher go to encourage intellectual curiosity among his/her students? While well-intentioned, the teacher crosses the line more than a few times. “How far is too far?,” the film pointedly asks.
The film also explores the ethical obligation of storytellers. The student writes a series of essays based on his observations, but you are never sure how much is true and how much has been embellished by the student. Deliberate embellishment or subconscious biases? Director Ozon turns the issue around and invites the viewer to question him: Is he manipulating his audience too? — the movie cleverly meta.
Fabrice Luchini, as the teacher, and especially Ernst Umhauer, as the student, are excellent! They play a sort of cat-and-mouse game that’s suspenseful and engaging. Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient and Four Weddings and a Funeral) is also great as Luchini’s neglected wife — it’s a small but pivotal role.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Flaws and all, In the House is marvelously imaginative, and a great film for writers, teachers or anyone interested in pedagogy and/or writing. The film requires patience from the viewer, but it is worth the effort. It’s definitely one of ornery filmmaker François Ozon’s best movies. Highly recommended! Color, 105 minutes, Rated PG.