As someone who once bumbled his way through GCSE French and for whom memories of Encore Tricolore listening exercises give the invigorating positivity of a concussion grenade, I’m aware that total reliance on a film with subtitles means I might miss something. This suspicion is particularly heightened when watching with bi-lingual friends. The extra attention I gave In the House might explain why I enjoyed it so much more than they did.
In the House is a film about the pleasures and perils of storytelling. It’s a sophisticated comic thriller where you’re never entirely sure who’s manipulating who and you’ll beg for a fourth wall breach in pursuit of greater clarity. There are class tensions and some very French diversions about the inherent responsibilities and sacrifices of art. These weren’t strictly necessary, but stereotype fulfilment was in this case, fulfilling.
Opinions on the ending ranged from improbable to implausible – or somewhere between the inverse criminal and civil burden of proof – but it is a measure of the excellent manner in which the film finishes that nobody thought that the confluence of events which concluded the film detracted enough to spoil their enjoyment.
If it were on stage, male lead Fabrice Luchini would be more than capable of performing In the House as a one man show. He has a face that can find one hundred different ways to express the nuance between scorn and weariness and yet never comes across as exaggerated. Kristin Scott Thomas and the rest of the cast neatly avoid the self-awareness which would destroy the audience’s scrutiny; something which is necessary for the film’s understated insights about human nature to really hit home.
By far his best work since 1999’s Under the Sand, Ozon’s In the House is a delicate and elegantly controlled adaptation of Juan Mayorga’s play of the same name. The screenplay is occasionally too clever for its own good, posing more questions than it answers but it has a compelling way of keeping our attention. The characters are seen for what they are – flawed but benign – with pathos a plenty and sufficient humour to balm any slights which ring too true for comfort.
It eventually runs out of steam when it becomes clear what must be done. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable disquisition on the blurred lines that distinguish observation from voyeurism, fiction from non-fiction and the subjectivity of honesty.
In the House is out on DVD on the 22nd of July.