Director: François Ozon
Drawing us into a world full of danger through spying on our neighbours, Dans La Maison offers us the turbulent lives of the Artole family on a plate, learning a few lessons himself and also teaching others as well.
Given the task of writing about his weekend for his French Literature class, the insanely talented Claude Garcia (played by Ernst Umhauer) describes the home life of a fellow student: Rapha Junior (Bastien Ughetto) who he singles out during maths when he finds that Rapha is failing. Using his mathematics ability to tutor Rapha and pushed by his literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini), Claude delves further into the Artole’s life. Befriending the father, Rapha Senior (played by Denis Ménochet) and seducing his wife, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner) are parts of his infiltration into the Artole household which he documents weekly and hands into his teachers.
Although encouraging him to improve his writing ability, we see Germain become increasingly obsessed with the Artole household, pushing the boundaries further and further. He is controlled by his desire to read Claude’s writing, which is fueled by frequent visits. He subtly threatens Germain that he’ll stop writing if he can’t access the Artole household anymore. This means that he needs to access maths papers, in order to prove his ability as a maths tutor to Rapha’s parents.
Although initially it starts off as a childish obsession with Claude, wanting to know how the Artole’s live, what makes them tick, what living in a normal family is like Dans La Maison takes a sinister turn when Germain humiliates Rapha in front of the class. Suddenly, things become a little bit more real for Germain, he realises that it’s not just a faraway story, but real people with real lives that he’s pushing Claude to toy with. Frequently, he appears as an external being in the Artole household, suggesting how Claude could twist the writing, twist the plot.
Reading the essays to his wife Joanne who works at the local gallery (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), Germain and Joanne discuss the lives of the Artole family as if they were discussing a soap opera. Joanne has a more weary attitude claiming that Claude may indeed be teaching Germain a lesson.
Dans La Maison switches between the Artole household and the Germain household, drawing parallels between both worlds. We realise that we know so much about the Artole’s, a fair bit about the Germain’s but hardly anything about Claude’s own family. We are introduced to Claude as this shy individual with an ‘absent mother’, whereas Rapha is introduced to us as a family unit. The Germain’s and the Artole’s become worryingly close when invited to a gallery showing by Joanne, striking fear in Germain’s heart.
Still, getting darker, we see Claude invade the personal lives of older women – Esther and Germain’s wife Joanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) for example. What makes this film so clever is how Claude plays on the interest of other characters. Both women want more than just what they’ve got and so Claude eases his way into their lives, Germain is addicted to new information and gossip and so Claude traps him in a game in which he repeats “A suivre…” and Rapha longs for something a little bit ‘different’ to his classmates.
I can’t talk to much without giving it away, but it is definitely worth a watch and you’ll enjoy it completely!
A suivre – to be continued