Blimey. What initially felt like a curious and very French study in voyeurism ended up being a fantastic metanarrative, as compelling as it is intelligent, with a story emerging and entwining from the chaos of teenage fantasy. Signing off with a Rear Window reference, In The House creeps up on its audience to create brilliantly uncomfortable suspense, penetrating the line between reality and fiction in a film which plays out like a pulsating page turner, producing the most perfect immersion for the viewer.
It’s more like a film that needs to be discovered than summarised but the story begins with high school teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchnini) feeling fed up with his class’s lack of literary flair. He notices a single bright spark whose lurid descriptions of the ‘middle class odor and curves’ of his friend’s mother catches him by surprise. Intrigued, Germain audaciously encourages his 16 year old student, Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer) to continue writing about his experiences with the friend’s family while sharing the boy’s writing with his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), creating the foundations for the lucid and voyeuristic drama to commence. Claude Garcia sees the perfection in the Artole family that he missed out on from his own experience, forcing his way into the family’s life, driven by impulsive teenage desires and fantasies.
Such is the strength of the narrative, the audience genuinely feel a sense of becoming guilty Peeping Toms. Umhauer is a handsome and talented young actor, capable of flicking a switch between innocence and pure malice. Director François Ozon carefully manages a slow pace through strong performances, light touches of comedy and a mesmerisingly constructed story to eventually bring pulses racing in an innovative thriller which genuinely leaves its audience squirming. It’s layered beautifully and successfully pulls a very rare cinematic trick by drawing its audience into the drama without the viewer even realising its pull. This is the best new film that I’ve seen so far this year, effortlessly bridging an apparent space between trashy fiction and intellectualism by orchestrating a really breathtaking, compulsive piece of cinema.
In The House is released on 29th March in the UK and 19th April in the US (limited). Certificate 15 (UK). Running time 105 mins.
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Review by David Rank