In the House, François Ozon’s first directorial feature since the magnificent, Potiche, sees him once again team-up with Fabrice Luchini for equally strong results.
Germain (Luchini), a literature teacher receives essays from student, Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), confessing his desire to visit the perfect family home of one of his classmates. As these essays grow more troubling, Germaine is unable to distinguish between fiction and reality, suspecting the motivations of the manipulative Claude.
Part of the pleasure of Ozon’s feature comes from the ever-shifting tones, with In the House blurring the lines between psychological thriller, drama and comedy seamlessly. Every genre that the director delves into is handled with the utmost confidence, making the many twists and turns that Ozon’s rich screenplay (based on Juan Mayorga’s stage play) takes us on, all the more thrilling.
Using the dual narrative of Claude’s stories and real life allows for Ozon to have a lot of fun. Watching Germain’s paranoia as he grows continually more infatuated with Garcia’s stories, so much so that he begins to lose his grip on reality, makes for thrilling viewing. The audience eventually becomes like Germain and Claude, voyeurs looking into the Artole Family home, where we discover that despite Claude’s first thoughts, they are very far from the perfect family. There’s a sinister energy generated by this voyeurism, mainly sourcing from Claude’s fantasies surrounding the Artole Matriarch, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner), culminating in an almost Gothic sequence where Claude stays over night at the family home. These dark psychological thrills strike parallels with Ozon’s earlier feature, the masterfully unsettling Swimming Pool.
In the House is not a completely dark watch, Ozon gives occasional moments of playful humour. These mainly stem from Fabrice Luchini’s staggeringly brilliant performance – Luchini is truly an actor gifted with a great versatility, being equally convincing at both light comic elements and heavier dramatic material. Many of these laughs come from Luchini’s scenes with on-screen wife, Kristin Scott Thomas who runs an exhibit at a local art gallery, which Germain dubs “Art for perverts.” The actress heads a stellar supporting cast which also includes Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Ménochet and a wonderfully sinister turn from newcomer, Ernst Umhauer.
In the House is a truly absorbing watch, thanks to an inventive screenplay providing us with a mix of mysterious psychological thrills, well-paced drama and some light comic flourishes. Ozon handles these elements with his ingenuity, wit and competence, allowing for some standout performances from Luchini, Umhauer &Thomas.
Stars: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas , Emmanuelle Seigner
Director: François Ozon
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Release: 21st February 2013 (Glasgow Film Festival)29th March 2013 (UK)