In the delightfully sinister In the House, a high-school teacher named Germain (Fabrice Luchini) positions himself as the Sultan to student Claude’s (Ernst Umhauer) Scheherazade, waiting eagerly and somewhat menacingly for each fresh chapter. It’s just one of many cunning constructions in French director François Ozon’s film, which celebrates the power of storytelling while also detailing its dangerously high stakes. When Germain asks his students to write about their weekend, Claude responds with a provocative, leering story about a classmate and his bourgeois family. Germain, a failed writer of fiction, quickly finds himself wrapped up in Claude’s unfolding tale: as an editor and as an avid reader. Claude entangles himself with the family: He joins basketball games, sleeps over, eavesdrops on private conversations, sneaks into the parents’ bedroom and ultimately seduces the mother. Ozon allows his characters to comment on or interrupt the proceedings, and it’s not always clear where reality stops and Claude’s fantasy sequences begin. But the film is propelled by performances alternately entrancing and repellent. Luchini’s deadpan comedy contrasts brilliantly with Umhauer’s moody, mischievous and slightly smarmy performance as a teenage boy who knows he’s in too deep. As teacher and student bask in their choreographed drama, Germain’s wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), drops cutting asides and cautionary remarks from the wings. Ozon may be knowingly clever, but the thrills and tortures of voyeurism have rarely been so playful—or so skin-crawling.
- Running Time:
- Release Date: Tuesday, May 7, 2013
- MPAA Rating: R
- Critic's Score: A-
- Watch the trailer