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STUDIO Cohen Media Group
RUNNING TIME 105 minutes
• Making of Featurette
• Costume Fittings
• Poster Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer
An incredibly meta non-violent home invasion movie.
Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seiguer, Denis Menochet
A sixteen-year-old boy schemes his way into the house of a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for his French teacher. Faced with this gifted and unusual pupil, the teacher rediscovers his enthusiasm for his work, but the boy’s intrusion unleashes a series of uncontrollable events.
Movies are a visual medium. I know that’s not a shocking revelation but think about it: there are movies that tell an amazing story using little more than actions. It’s their one great advantage over the written word when it comes to storytelling. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one scene is worth millions. One of the most common chides that critics give to films is “show, don’t tell” and it’s generally considered to be bad form for a film to have a story communicated mostly or entirely by words. And yet, occasionally a movie comes along that tells instead of shows and it does it so well that one couldn’t imagine it done any other way.
In the House is a narrative that seems better suited to a novel than a movie, yet it’s the marriage of words and actions which makes it so compelling. It’s a movie about the almost antagonistic relationship between the writer and the reader and the way the two manipulate one another.
Germain Germain (I am still trying to figure out if this is an oblique Lolita reference) is a high-school French teacher. While grading a stack of insipid papers on the subject of what the students have done over their weekend, a paper by a student named Claude Garcia catches his eye. Claude details befriending a classmate and offering to tutor him in math for the sole purpose of gaining entry into his home. Germain confronts Claude with the paper, telling him the material would be dangerous and insulting if the other boy read it, but Claude assures the teacher was the only intended audience. In spite of the teacher’s orders, Claude continues the story through his class assignments, ending each one with the enigmatic “to be continued. . .”
Each of Claude’s papers is shown as a scene in the movie, but it becomes clear very early on that he’s an unreliable narrator and we can’t trust what we’re seeing. Germain starts as a stand-in for the audience, with he and his wife severing as a sort of Greek Chorus in between chapters of the story, but soon he becomes an active participant affecting the emphasis that Claude puts on certain characters, prodding him to manipulate their actions, and eventually popping up in the scenes as a fourth-wall breaking critic.
In the House is listed as drama but it’s a straight up horror movie. I’m aware that’s a controversial statement as there are no deaths and there’s only one brief scene of violence toward the end. The tone for the most part is rather twee and gets more drama infused later with no scares to be seen. However, if I were to assign a cinematic soul-mate to this film I would have to go with Michael Hanecke’s Funny Games (pick whichever version suits you, if you’re a snob).
In the House is a home invasion movie, but a very patient one. Our villain isn’t a mask-wearing psychopath with a knife; Claude Garcia is a very intelligent sociopath with a talent for manipulation. He has no interest in murder, but a great desire to toy with people and see what he can make them do. We never know how much of the story-within-a-story is true beyond the few brief interactions that Germain has with the family but it’s apparent that every paper Claude turns in is meant to evoke a specific reaction from his teacher. And as Germain becomes more involved in the story it becomes clear that student is actually manipulating the teacher.
The only place the movie truly fails is in its ending. The climax is barely foreshadowed and feels unearned, and the ending feels so out of nowhere and hackneyed that it put me off the movie entirely. The entire narrative is constantly building toward something and the reveal of what that something is was so disappointing that I never felt the desire to ever watch it again. In the House is an extremely interesting movie but it’s far more interesting than it is actually good. I recommend everyone give it a watch, just be forewarned that the ending may spoil the whole thing for you.
The disc’s video and audio are both crisp and clear and the movie has a nice use of color and blocking. There are several special features on the disc but they’re all particularly forgettable.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars