Review: Dance la maison (2012)

Dance la maison (2012)

Directed by: François Ozon | 105 minutes | thriller | Actors: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, Catherine Davenier, Jean-François Balmer, Yolande Moreau, Denis Ménochet, Bastien Ughetto, Stéphanie Campion, Fabrice Colson, Diana Stewart

Mister Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is a rather jaded French teacher. He would have loved to be a writer himself, but he lacked the necessary talent. Germain is the living example of the saying ‘Those who can’t do, teach’. After a long career in education, the fun has worn off a bit and he mainly has an eye for the negative. His students, he sighs to his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), are getting dumber every year. An essay about what they did last weekend is already too much to ask for and yields the result, for example: ‘Friday I ate pizza and watched television, Sunday nothing’.

But in the same pile he finds the story of Claude (Ernst Umhauer), who describes a day at his friend’s house. He is immediately fascinated by the boy’s unusual writing style and speaks to him about his essay. From then on, every week he receives a new chapter of the story of Claude infiltrating the house (‘Dans la maison’) of his friend Rafa and his parents.

The teacher and his wife become addicted to the boy’s story and Mr. Germain does everything he can to encourage Claude to finish his story. He encourages the boy to spend more time at Rafa’s house.

‘Dans la maison’ by François Ozon is an intelligent thriller that grips the viewer almost immediately. Like the Germain couple, as a spectator you long for more stories from Claude and you want to know how it ends. Not much happens in the film, but there’s a kind of impending doom in the lyrics that keep you on the edge of your seat.

The acting is rock solid. Kristin Scott Thomas has made her appearance in a French film before, for example the impressive ‘Il ya longtemps que je t’aime’ and ‘Her name was Sarah’. The British actress also shows in ‘Dans la maison’ that she performs just as well in French as in English. Fabrice Luchini is also very credible as a cynical teacher. Newcomer Ernst Umhauer impresses as the mysterious Claude.

What makes ‘Dans la maison’ so strong is its subtlety. Nothing is over-explained and when a cliché creeps into the story, it is mocked by the characters themselves. Just like for Germain, it is sometimes unclear to the viewer what is fiction and what is reality. ‘Dans la maison’ captivates from start to finish and never becomes predictable because it is precisely at the moments when it seems to become predictable that it is not clear whether this is fiction or reality.

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