At once sly comedy and tense thriller, François Ozon’s “In the House” is a story about storytelling; about what can happen when we get lost inside a life that isn’t ours. “Am I a fictional character?” someone demands, late in the film, as literature and life blur at the edges. It’s fiction about life that becomes fiction that might be life — and the viewer happily dives in.
The great, hollow-eyed Fabrice Luchini (“Intimate Strangers”) stars as Germain, a bored English teacher coasting toward retirement at the Lycee Gustave Flaubert. One day, his student Claude (Ernst Umhauer) hands in a paper in which he describes being in his friend Rapha’s house, seeing things not intended for a visitor’s eyes. Germain chastises him, but Claude continues to write about what he sees in the house: his attraction to Rapha’s mother (Emmanuelle Seigner), the troubles of Rapha’s father (Denis Menochet), the “middle-class” life of the family. Germain becomes fascinated — as does his wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), reading over his shoulder. Worlds collide, truth mingles with writerly embellishment, and Germain starts popping up, in delicious Zelig-like fashion, in Claude’s stories.
It’s layer upon layer, and it’s a pleasure, particularly Scott Thomas’ gimlet-eyed Jeanne (upon first reading Claude’s paper, she’s ready to sort everyone out) and composer Philippe Rombi’s enticingly insistent score. At the end, we’re reminded that behind every window is a story — and that Claude will surely be peeking behind another curtain, on another day.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com
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