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In the House (2012) “Dans la maison” (original title)

January 2, 2016

ITHThe film is based on a play The Boy in the Last Row by Juan Myorga. Voyeurism is the not the only theme. Ozon comments on French society in general, the nature of art and literature, the life of the petit bourgeoisie in modern France, the dysfunctional education system and the class divide while comparing life in two very different households. One is unpolished working class with a child and the other very educated, cultured and childless. Rapha’s mother Esther is the archetype bored housewife trapped in her home decoration magazines. His father is forever terrorized by his boss and dreams of starting a business of his own, his naïveté makes us worry for the family.

Both director François Ozon’s parents were teachers.

Germain is a frustrated school teacher trying to teach his teenaged students to write. He is meeting with very little success. We see him grading compositions at home. He has asked his class to describe their weekend. All he gets from most are couple of lines about pizza and TV. The students’ lack of writing skills is matched only by their lack of imagination. In the midst of these still born assignments he finds one which actually has two pages of writing. He begins to read it aloud to his wife Jeanne. This is one of the ways in which they engage with each other in middle age, without children or cats. The writer is an average boy called Claude who writes about his visit to his friend Rapha’s house. It should not amount to much except for the fact that its written in good quality prose and suggests that Claude is manipulating Rapha.

Claude has been watching the house for sometime and has finally managed to gain entry in the guise of trying to help Rapha with his math. Claude comes from a broken family and lives alone with his handicapped father is a run down apartment. He is curious about what happens in the perfect looking homes of the middle class. In his first essay he describes Rapha’s mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner) lounging on a sofa, smelling like a middle class woman. The description is at once disturbing and erotic.He signs off his essay ”to be continued”. It’s almost like the pilot for a juicy soap opera.

Germaine’s interest is aroused, he has found a protégée who can fulfil his fantasy of being a writer. Claude reminds him of his young days, he too sits in the back of the class, just like he did-”You can see everyone but nobody notices you”. Jeanne is intrigued too, but warns Germaine from encouraging what appears to be a dangerous and perverted game. She runs an art gallery and is struggling to survive in her job. Her exhibits include inflated sex dolls with faces of Stalin and Hitler. Germaine coaches Claude in the art of writing, and Claude burrows deeper and deeper into the Rapha household as well as Germaine’s mind. Each installment of his saga is read with breathless anticipation by Germaine and Jeanne.

Ernst Umhauer said this about the character he plays in the movie: “He confuses his writing with reality and turns everything in his path upside-down. He has no distance, it takes him a long time to realize his words are stinging and can do damage. He’s smart, but not very conscious of his responsibility”.

Does being openly gay, as Ozon is, complicate his attitude toward family? “Perhaps it makes it difficult to find your place. But also I am the oldest of four children so I’m sure I would always have found that hard. For In the House, I wanted to show the fascination children have for the perfect middle-class family. As a child I would have dreamed of living in that house in the suburbs with a beautiful mother and a father who is a hero. Children want normality. They are very conservative. They don’t want to be strange or special; they only want to fit in. We need family, and at certain times we need to kill it too.”

Both are outsiders in their respective worlds – Germain is looked upon as an oddity by his colleagues while Claude is not really a part of the student body in any meaningful way – and need each other, irregardless of the lies they must feed themselves and the damaging effects on those around them.

Two quite essentially unattractive people stumble their way to their respective, much-flawed and in the end, elusive  “promised lands”.

Confused sexuality breaks out in many directions.

(at around 1h 35 mins) While Claude is walking through park, his hair is parted on different sides between shots.

Germain: They say the barbarians are coming. But THEY ARE HERE, in our classrooms!

Claude Garcia: But I love you.

Esther Artole: No. It’s not me you love. It’s an image. An image in your head.

Jeanne Germain: Tolstoy. I hate Russians. I have only read the first and the last pages of Anna Karenina.

Germain: The story has to end in a way that surprises the audience, but at the same time couldn’t end in any other way

[last lines] Claude Garcia: To be continued.

Germain’s wife delicately enquires as to whether he isn’t a tiny bit of a gay paedophile. During a generic exchange in an art gallery in which Germain professes that “nothing really shocks him”, the camera shows him stood between Mao-, Stalin- and Hitler-headed sex dolls.

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From → Film, Sexuality

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