Dans la maison - In The House

Dans la maison - In The House

Postby CAP » Wed Jul 17, 2013 4:19 pm

Small but perfectly formed tale of art and life by François Ozon, about a teacher becoming obsessed with a talented student’s essays, to his eventual downfall. I’m not really an Ozon fan, but this one is funny with a fairly mild perversity quotient, for the director. The story is loosely based on a play by Juan Mayorga, The Boy in the Last Row, Ozon channelling it somewhat along more French satirical lines, returning to his favoured themes of subversion and dependency. Here, a middle-aged teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is impressed with an assignment by a quiet student describing his weekend in their anonymous provincial city. The student, Claude (Ernst Umhauer) confesses to deliberately befriending another boy in class, Rapha (Bastien Ughetto) in order to be invited to his home, a suburban house he has watched for some time from the park opposite. Claude lives with his invalid father in a modest flat and fantasises about bourgeois respectability. Being ‘in the house’ represents some measure of acceptance and playing a part in this world. It seems innocent enough, but Claude’s essay also includes a precocious sexual note, in the line ‘the singular smell of a middle-class woman’ to describe Rapha’s mother, Ester (Emmanuelle Seigner) and the teasing note at the end ‘to be continued’. The essay stands out in a class of indifferent sixteen-year-olds’ efforts and Germain shows it to his wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) who is equally intrigued.

Germain then singles Claude out for tuition and to try and gauge his intentions. But Claude proves an elusive customer. It is not clear how much the story was written as confession and how much to hold the attention of his teacher, how much it is fact and how much fiction. Germain can remonstrate about proprieties, but Claude pleads a teacher/student confidentiality that scores big with Germain and agrees only to write another instalment. There then follows a series of instalments each time revealing a little more of life ‘in the house’. Rapha’s father, also ‘Rapha’ (Denis Menochet) is a stressed-out sales executive, worshipping Chinese business success and addicted to basketball (the whole milieu – even the architecture is insidiously American – subtly adding to the theme of artifice) and is actually his son’s best friend. Young Rapha is from the first vacuous grin, a fool who never questions for a moment Claude’s ready offers of help with maths homework. Each time Germain wants a little more from the story, not by way of facts so much as a satisfying narrative and prose – as art, in other words. Each time Germain shows the efforts to Jeanne who begins to question the value of literature to the troubled soul. Significantly, Jeanne runs an art gallery and is struggling to show work that the owners (two elderly sisters) will like. For her, art must also be business, but her sales pitches fall back on the purple prose of art catalogues, her own feeble tastes.

Both Jeanne and Germain purportedly defend art against an indifferent world but each has their own agenda. We learn Germain is an unsuccessful novelist frustrated with teaching and with each instalment Claude slyly gives him what he wants from the story – more sexual provocation, more crass home improvement dreams from Ester, more vegging out in front of TV sports, more double dealing business manoeuvres by her husband. ‘In the house’ confirms all of Germain’s suspicions about contemporary French life. There is no line between fact and fiction, the story is ‘already always’, to adopt the appropriate locution, directed at someone, meeting implicit prescriptions. Pursued far enough, life ends up as art. And each time, Claude becomes a little more proactive, a little more sophisticated. Pretty soon Germain is literally in the house himself, observing the scenes, just as he reads them, conferring with Claude even as Claude kisses Ester. But be careful what you wish for… The more Germain is absorbed into the story, the more trouble it makes for his life. Jeanne feels neglected, his headmaster accuses him of failing to maintain standards (as well as stealing exam papers – at the behest of the archly manipulative Claude). It all starts to fall apart for Germain.

In the end he loses his own ‘house’. His wife leaves him, he loses his job; he spends his days sitting on a park bench observing adjacent apartments. Now he is finally on the outside and all windows offer a myriad of stories, but there is no longer any real curiosity about the inside stories, for Claude or Germain. Claude now has someone outside the house and is less of an outcast and Germain can now see a lot more to life than literature, albeit from a more modest point of view. Give this one 8 or 9. :)
User avatar
Posts: 1081
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:38 am
Location: Off-world

Return to Movies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests