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Laramie Movie Scope:
In the House (Dans la maison)

A twisted psychological drama plus fantasy

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 10, 2013 -- This twisted psychological drama about a teacher and his prize pupil has the attraction of being an exercise in voyeurism, which is a key attraction for the patrons of movies and theater productions. The main character, a student, is a creepy little manipulative voyeur. The other main character, the teacher, is a man who lives by proxy through the lives of his students, but doesn't have much of a life of his own.

The teacher, Germain Germain (played by Fabrice Luchini of “The Women on the 6th Floor”) is a frustrated teacher, chafing under some new politically-correct rules at school. He gives his class a writing assignment to describe what they did over the weekend. Germain complains to his wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas of “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) that the dismal papers turned in by the students represent a collapse of civilization. She replies that he says the same thing every year.

But one paper stands out. A student with a gift for description, Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer) writes a paper about how he manipulates a fellow student, Rapha Artole (Bastien Ughetto) into inviting him into his home to help him with his studies. Claude imagines Rapha's family to be perfect and he wants to see what that is like. He sneaks around the house, spying on Rapha's father, (Denis Ménochet) and mother, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner). He becomes infatuated with Esther, even though he keeps calling her “middle class” in his writings.

Germain and his wife are both fascinated by Claude's writing. He ends each paper with “to be continued.” Although Jeanne warns Germain about encouraging Claude to continue to spy on the Rapha family, he does just that. He even gets helps Claude and Rapha to cheat on a math test so that Claude can continue to tutor Rapha.

Germain is tutoring Claude extensively, advising him on how to develop the plots of his stories. After a time, it is hard to tell what is really happening with Claude, Esther and Rapha, and how much he is making up. Germain has created a kind of monster in Claude, who is using his writing skills to manipulate Germain, as well as the whole Rapha family. He attempts to openly seduce Rapha's mother, Esther.

Germain's experiment with Claude eventually blows up in his face. Claude's own experiments with the Rapha family also backfire on him, but he moves on to a new family without missing a step. The film's conclusion is odd, but affecting. The problem with this whole plot is that Claude doesn't act like a child. He acts more like a very sophisticated, sociopathic adult with a lot of life experience. He also seems strangely unaffected by life. He's a bit too serene. Germain is more like the child in this relationship.

This is an impressive film, even though it seems like a kind of psychological-dramatic experiment. It combines fantasy and reality in interesting ways, depicting imaginary events and realistic events with equal conviction. The characters in the film, with the exception of Claude, are interesting enough. Claude, on the other hand, seems like a creepy artificial construct. He is whatever he needs to be at any given moment, simply a cinematic device to advance the plot. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)