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Claude Orzon’s (Swimming Pool) In the House (Dans la maison) is a clever tale that challenges us on the nature of life, fiction, and scruples, all while serving up a tasty dish of twists in which we are never certain what is real and what is purely trumped up, imaginings.
We begin In the House with exasperated high school literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini)who is lamenting the lack of intelligence and capable writers amongst his current crop of students to his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas). Then, he comes across an essay from one of the quieter students in his class, Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer). Amongst the papers of assignments on what they did over the weekend, Claude has penned an interesting, voyeuristic short story about his fellow classmate’s family and their upper middle class house, with the ending, simply “to be continued” in brackets. Intrigued, Germain encourages Claude to continue is writing, and continue to journey to his classmate Rapha Artole’s (Bastien Ughetto) home to tutor him in math. Soon, Claude has insinuated himself into the family, and has begun to turn his attentions toward Rapha’s mother. Still not dissuaded, Germain continues to encourage Claude, pushing him to evolve and rework some of his even earlier esays to include more and more detail, crossing the lines into some dubious ethics in order to help Claude, but when Germain and Jeanne become a part of the narrative, it may be too late to stop what could be a dark turn.
The film unfolds in a back and forth between the present and what we are never quite sure of is either a heightened fantasy or cold realism of Claude’s voyeuristic essays. Orzon leaves us as viewers to decide if we are seeing pure fiction or “fact” playing out between the reality of student and pupil and the essays of Claude. In the House, from the Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga’s The Boy in the Last Row is also a commentary on the concerns of privacy in the modern era, in the the most removed sense. Do we really ever know that we are secure in our homes from the peering of the outside world, or is there someone, somewhere taking vicarious thrill in our most intimate moments?
In the House shows no signs of electronic manipulation in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement from Entertainment One, though the image is somewhat grainy at times, with a course grain structure that can sometimes be a bit obtrusive. The original color palette isn’t one that will really pop either, going from the cold look of the classrooms and the bourgeois house of the titular title, but it is still a satisfying detailed and textures image with no noise or compression issues.
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack is atmospheric and well balanced for a natural sounding mix. Dialogue is clean with no signs of clipping.
The extras are mostly inconsequential, but there is a lengthy making of worth checking out.
- Costume and Lighting Tests (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:02:50)
- Bloopers (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:10:32)
- Première at the Grand Rex (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:06:11)
- Poster Concepts (1080i/50; 00:01:28)
- Deleted Scenes (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:12:05)
- Making Of (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:51:23)
The Definitive Word
The nature of fiction, the implications of voyeurism and the thin line that separates reality from fiction is deftly handled in Orzon’s clever, witty, and twisting In the House. Propelled by two fascinating performances from veteran Fabrice Luchini and young newcomer Ernst Umhauer, this is one that will most likely grow influence over the years.