François Ozon’s latest movie is a psychological drama that takes its viewers on an emotional ride with more twists and turns than a basket full of snakes.
Following on from 8 Femmes and Swimming Pool, Ozon’s In The House stars Fabrice Luchini (The Women On The 6th Floor) as Germain, a disillusioned high-school teacher of French literature who finds a renewed inspiration in the writings of one of his students, 16-year-old Claude (Ernst Umhauer). Claude has become maths mentor to another pupil and the two boys strike up an unlikely friendship, but it seems Claude has other motives. He has a desire to be accepted into his classmate’s family home and becomes obsessed with his friend’s mother, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner).
His confessional-style writings portray that of a creepy voyeur who has infiltrated another person’s life and is dishing all the intimate details. His observations always end with a “to be continued …”. Germain’s fervour increases with each instalment and he feels a compelling urge to keep the story going. He takes Claude’s writings home, and in reading them to his art gallery owner wife Jeanne (Kirstin Scott Thomas), also embroils her in the game.
It seems the boy is orchestrating events as deftly as a Stradivarius maestro. He’s manipulative and decidedly creepy, and you fear an inevitable tragic ending.
Ozon then throws in a few dramatic twists. There’s a blurring between reality and fantasy leading to confusion about the schoolboy’s relationship with the mother.
All during the film Claude remains a mystery. There is a brief snapshot into his dismal and bleak life, where we feel a surprising turn of sympathy, leading to a renewed confusion over the motives behind his actions.
And by the time the movie reaches its surprising conclusion, all you are left with are questions and your own interpretations, together with mixed feelings for Claude, suspicion or sympathy?
If you like your films all nicely tied up, you are likely to be left confused and frustrated.
But there is enough intrigue to keep the audience engaged until the final scene. There’s also a brilliant performance by young Ernst Umhauer, and future stardom surely beckons.