Renowned French filmmaker François Ozon is celebrated for his unique looks in films (with Potiche (2010) and Swimming Pool (2003) being two of his finest examples). Here he has adapted Juan Mayorga’s play The Boy In The Last Row into a captivating and witty black comedy. In The House is a direct look at the art of storytelling itself. It is also being regarded as Ozon’s finest film yet.
High school literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini from Potiche and The Women On The 6th Floor) is marking his students’ essays in anguish at the quality of their writing. That is, of course, until he reads a story by his talented 16 year old student, Claude (Ernst Umhauer). It is powerful, quite irresistible and distractingly voyeuristic.
Coming from a broken home where his mother abandoned him, Claude is unhappy in his lonely life. He watches his schoolmate Rapha’s close relationship with his parents, so he strikes up a friendship with the boy when semester begins. He clearly needs to distract himself with wholesome family warmth, so he establishes himself as Rapha’s math tutor and study mate. Like he intended, Claude quickly wins the affection and trust of Rapha’s parents.
As Claude promises to help struggling Rapha with his maths lessons, he is quite intoxicated with what happens “In The House”. He becomes obsessed by Rapha’s mother Esther and learns of Rapha Snr’s problems with work. Claude’s attachment is less to Rapha, but more to the surrogate family.
As Claude writes of his time in the house, he ends each page with:”to be continued…” completely fascinating his teacher. Germain reads it to his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) who is struggling at her art gallery after her partner dies, leaving Jeanne to cope with his two profit-oriented sisters who are testing her patience. She becomes as obsessed as Germain in Claude’s essay.
Quite blown away by Claude’s talent Germain immediately offers the young teen some private lessons but his entry into the boy’s life starts to create a blurry line between Claude’s new stories and reality when Germain himself starts appearing in Claude’s writing and Germain’s own life becomes a new obsession…
It is an outstanding cast, with Kristin Scott Thomas proving to be fluent in French. I thought she must of been dubbed but later found out that she lives in France with her French husband, so that explains her brilliant French accent!
This is a very clever look at the thin line between fact and fiction, truth and lies, and an individual’s need for attention. Totally seductive, this film was a big hit in France.
Reviewed by Kirstey Whicker
Rating out of 5: 3