Tuesday, 30 July 2013

In The House

This French film tells the story of a schoolmaster who finds that one of his pupils writes particularly well and encourages him to keep going. The pupil follows the schoolmaster's advice, makes friends with another boy in his class and infiltrates that boy's family, in order to write about them. The schoolmaster becomes addicted to the pupil's descriptions of his friend's family life, each new episode arriving with 'to be continued' at its end. Things become sinister - or that I think is what they are supposed to become - and nothing ends well.

Which would all be great if the film managed to actually make us believe that the young schoolboy's tales from a middle class family were unputdownable, but it doesn't - and that is its great flaw. Instead, we just have to accept that the rather pathetic schoolmaster would risk his career in exchange for seeing another chunk of fairly unexciting writing. I didn't accept that. I couldn't, because what we heard of it was really pretty dull.

I did recognise that something was being said about writing instead of living, about the manipulation of reality that often goes on in the process of making fiction - and indeed the manipulation of reality into a kind of private fiction that failed writers like the teacher indulge in inside their heads. I quite enjoyed the various digs at new educational theories - apparently in France one must no longer call the people who attend school pupils but learners. However, the characters were pretty unsympathetic - has anyone ever found Kristen Scott Thomas sympathetic in anything (although I acknowledge she speaks pretty good French for a Pom) and the story unconvincing. The world that was created seemed so small - as if we were watching people living in a stage-set rather than in a wider environment. The young man who played the writing adolescent had a wonderfully wicked faun-like look about him and I hope he'll go on to great success in other films. Unfortunately, his charisma alone was not enough to carry this one on his own.

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