In The House - Blu-ray Review

'sacrifices a level of plot scrutability in order to explore its director's fascinations of voyeurism, storytelling and audience participation'

Fran├žois Ozon's very clever In The House perhaps sacrifices a level of plot scrutability in order to explore its director's fascinations of voyeurism, storytelling and audience participation but, for the most part, this is a successful look at the narrative process and for once it is not one hiding behind a lead character who is a struggling Hollywood screenwriter or some such.

Germain (Fabrice Luchini) may have been a writer once, for a brief period, but now his time is spent teaching in a school he hates. Bright pupil Claude (Ernst Umhauer), however, provides some respite from the boredom and educational politics, crafting an English project based around fellow pupil Rapha and his family. Initially sceptical, Germain finds himself encouraging Claude to pursue the story, even when it appears to take him into dangerous territory.

Ozon is clearly fascinated with making us complicit with the story and examining the role of the audience in general. Wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) owns an art gallery, which at one point installs an exhibit which consists of a blank canvas and a pair of earphones which describe a painting to the viewer. 'We must create the art in our imagination' she tells her husband, as the link between what's happening in the narrative and on screen is made explicit. We, as an audience, want to see what happens to Claude and get to the end of his narrative, even though we realise we are entering places we shouldn't. A times, this is a whisker away from We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Ozon also successfully plays with our expectations and realisations of the story. Is Claude really doing everything we think he is, or is his tale for narrative benefit? The fact that Germain shows up at times during what we think is Claude's real life excursions into Rapha's home suggests that there is a level of fantasy here, further muddying the ideas on show. Is Claude's story within this fiction 'really' happening, or is it merely like the picture on the canvas, conjured up by Ozon's visuals and our imagination? It's to the directors great credit that the equation never gets as dizzying as that might sound.

The problem though is one of interest elsewhere, which slowly peters out as the film progresses. In The House, for all of its ideas around narrative and our role in it as an audience, is just not that interesting of character and progression. Ozon includes a lot about Jeanne's gallery, which never feels important enough to justify its inclusion and later on focuses on Germain's personal life for a time. Those things just are not what drives this film though and, in the end, though it is clever, it isn't quite compelling.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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