FABRICE LUCHINI ERNST UMHAUER KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS
IN THE HOUSE
I’m very tempted to generalize here and say the French really do deliver creative films, but then I count the number of French films I see each year and I realize that France likely has as many horrible flops as we do and I only see the good ones. In the House is certainly a good one, and the best thing about it is that you never know where it’s going. It’s sort of a story within a story, but turns into a manipulative thriller. Kristin Scott Thomas (The Horse Whisperer, The English Patient) is like the French Cate Blanchett with her curious and always surprising film choices. Smoothly transitioning from English language films to French ones, Thomas has yet again brought originality to our eyes.
Germain (Luchini) is complaining to his wife (Thomas) as he reads the first stack of attempted poems from his freshman class. Just as he is condemning the future of barbarians who only talk about their cell phones and pizza, he begins to read the essay by Claude Garcia (Umhauer), who takes a compelling, voyeur type approach in talking about his friend Rapha (Bastien Ughetto) and his family. Germain begins to coach Claude on his writing style and encourages him to dig deeper into his friendship and why he wants so badly to get inside Rapha’s house. Claude is manipulative on paper and in real life, and soon Germain cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction.
From the moment 16 year old Ernst Umhauer is on screen he makes the audience feel uneasy and suspicious, very much in the vein of Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley. The young actor, whose dialogue is mostly voice over, does an incredible job with sly looks and devious mannerisms to sustain the audience's apprehension of his motives. Director and writer Francois Ozon’s script keeps everything so mysterious that the suspense really drives our suspicions to an unpredictable conclusion.
Devious would be the best word to describe this film, and perhaps the mixture of reality and illusion will detract some audience members who like things spelled out for them. The film does take a few ridiculous turns (whether or not they are real is up for you to decide), but the script offers evidence to back up most of the scenes, which on their own would make a pretty interesting and compelling story. I could easily see this film being remade for American audiences, with Claude being played by Ezra Miller.
Final Thought – A titillating and voyeuristic mystery.
By: Dustin Chase