In The House: Art, Literature, and Creepiness

Nothing good can come of a ferocious summer cold–except bed rest and a prescription for Netflix and ice cream. I was looking for something thought-provoking, slightly creepy but not supernatural, and pulse pounding. I happened upon In The House on one of those top 50 Movie lists, and frankly, I’m still turning the film over in my mind the morning after. It was such a feast that I still haven’t digested it all. Screen shot 2015-05-31 at 12.29.30 PM

In this 2012 French film, Mr. Germaine (Fabrice Luchini) is a failed writer and literature teacher who is taken in by the prose of Claude Garcia (magnificently portrayed by Ernst Umhauer). Germaine begins privately tutoring the talented, motherless, back-row student (whom he sees his young self in) to disastrous effect. The performances are all pretty amazing, including Kristin Scott Thomas as Germain’s wife, Jeanne, an art gallery director. The dialogue snaps, crackles, and pops even in subtitle form, and drives the nuanced plot forward. There is no dead body, only the mysterious workings of the human mind and heart, and  the human desire to impose meaning through the art of storytelling.

This movie turns its lens on the tangled relationship between the written story and the reader, the teacher and student, the artist and the viewer of art. If you happen to teach or write, or do both as I do, you’ll be sure to find this movie utterly absorbing and fascinating. And deeply, deeply creepy. In the best way.

But this film, directed by Francois Ozon (best known for his film The Swimming Pool, also so worth a screening like today) is also about longing, and how we go about achieving or being denied that or for whom we desire.

Screen shot 2015-05-31 at 12.29.03 PM

Mr. Germain explains to his rapt, devoted pupil that a story’s resolution, while it might surprise readers, must also feel inevitable, as though it couldn’t have ended any other way. I, myself, have heard this in workshops, and have said a variation of this countless times to my own creative writing students. This film’s conclusion delights and revels in just such a denouement.


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