Tuesday, 2 April 2013

REVIEW - IN THE HOUSE


Aren't fictional characters always so much more interesting than real people? The more you know a person, the less you care to know, I suppose. In the House offers us a perspective on a family that is not our own: it is that of another one of the film's characters. Despite the fact that much of what he provides us in regard to narrative actually occurs, it functions as a fictional story within a factual framework - that is, it becomes the film, and the frame becomes a reality. As the machinations of the plot which drive this reality become ever more obvious, though, and as the lines between the two are blurred, Francois Ozon steadies his ship by emphasising the comedy that is slyly prevalent throughout, and he reveals a delicate touch with some self-referential meta elements which could have invalidated the quality of the entire film. This family, so crudely drawn, so colourful, so predictable, becomes so much fun to behold, even as we know that In the House is more about the other characters, specifically Germain, the teacher; his awareness of his position in his own story allows him to keep up with us, ensuring that he discloses what we learn about him (we learn a little more still) and that he doesn't begin to leech our sympathy. I had such admiration for Claude, Germain's student, but wished he had been as sharply drawn as the other figures, in the end - he remains motiveless for his actions, and acts in an uncharacteristic manner in the film's coda, which jarred for me. Ozon also loses his grip in the preceding scene, where his attempt at melodrama is flimsy, and his attempt to simultaneously satirise it is ill-advised. He ought to have left it alone, as he does with much of In the House, and consistently to its benefit otherwise. He lets those fictional characters, 90% non-fictional anyway, earn our sympathy, wholly unknowingly, which is what makes them so interesting. It also aids those particular actors' performances, but the cast on the whole is impressive.