In the House is one of the more enjoyable films I have seen lately. It is described as a thriller, which leads you to believe it is more serious than it turns out to be. The thriller part is that the plot twists and turns and keeps you guessing just where it will go, but along the way there is a lot of comedy. The story focuses on a high school French teacher and his mentoring relationship with one of his students who displays a real talent for writing. It is his subject matter that grows into a problem.
The Teacher (Fabrice Luchini) has grown accustomed to students who do the least they can to get by, but when one of his students, Claude (Ernst Umhauer), turns in a well-written and engaging essay, he encourages him to hone his craft. The fun thing about Claude’s writings is that they all end with “to be continued.” But the troubling thing is that he has befriended a boy in class just so he can get into his house and see how a “normal” family lives, and this is the subject matter for his never ending story. The Teacher and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) are drawn into the serial narrative, devouring the story installments, though feeling less and less comfortable about their vicarious pleasure in the reading, and wondering where the line between imagination and reality lies. And then the Teacher, entirely enamored of the kid’s talent, breaks the rules for Claude so that he can continue his voyeuristic stories from within the house of the normal family, putting his own job in jeopardy.
In the House is directed by Francois Ozon (Potiche, Swimming Pool) who has great comic timing but also understands how to keep an audience right on the edge our seats. Will the kid go too far? Will he get caught in the act of watching what he shouldn’t? Will the Teacher help him too much? And under it all there is a darkness that you are not sure is part of the kid’s story or his real personality. It is an unusual movie, adapted from a play, and totally worth your while with great performances all around. I’d recommend it to all adult audiences, especially writers, as long as you can get past the subtitles.