Dans La Maison – 2012

dans la maisonI have been lucky enough to see this gem of a film twice now, firstly at the London film festival back in October and now today at the preview (General release is the 29th March, I really wouldn’t miss it if I were you). I remember on my first viewing watching agog as the events unfurled in their elegant tapestry. I knew I had to see this film again. It’s been a long wait, but here we are.

The film centres around Claude (Ernst Umhauer), a young boy whose writing catches the eye of his professor (Fabrice Luchini) and is encouraged to continue writing his story. However this story is not entirely a fiction. We watch as both men fall close to the line of confusing fiction and reality. From what I’ve said so far it may surprise you that you could almost class this film as a black comedy. It is never outrightly ridiculous but it has a wicked wit so sharp as to be laugh out loud funny. Even through this it never loses its poignancy. Such is the chameleon nature of the film.

Once again a love letter to the very act of creation Dans La Maison strays seamlessly into every genre, depicting life in all its forms. The format can become confusing but after a while you realise that it is an existential question. Life is simultaneously a tragedy, a comedy, a farce and a melodrama; it just depends on who is watching. This is illustrated perfectly very early in the film. One scene is played twice, albeit it edited and filmed differently. It is tribute to the Ozon’s delicacy that these tiny changes in the style and action turn the tone from one of mild derision to outright vitriolic scorn.

The performance from Ernst Umhauer as Claude is astounding in this film, for a relative newcomer to hold a film of such weight on his shoulders requires a huge amount of talent. Umhauer’s performance is not only skilful but elegant and subtle. A tilt of the head, a certain intonation or look in the eyes and a scene is under his command, switching from heartwarming to sinister as the character commands. He steals scenes from many more accomplished actors throughout the film through sheer grace of expression. That is not to cast aspersions on the other performances in the film, Fabrice Luchini is excellent as the unwitting cause and eventual victim of Claude’s game. While his part seems almost a distraction, an interruption to Claude’s story he becomes more and more involved, more and more lost that eventually their stories become one.

Executed with a great technical flair, Dans La Maison is helped along by its soundtrack, a hook that repeats and varies over and over until you forget the original melody, everything in the film echoes itself. Art is a metaphor, the modern art scorned by the characters is in fact the comedy in which they live. The young boy reminds his wife of the old man. It becomes more a meta-narrative than anything else. The end leaves you questioning your own perception of the reality of the film as those you watch question theirs.


4 thoughts on “Dans La Maison – 2012

  1. tristanbruemmer

    I like your way of thinking about the film, that’s certain, you have a real understanding and encompassing view of the film and what it represents. I would, however, make a couple of remarks. First, a general point, it amuses me that you adopt such an idolizing tone, even more so because your vast vocabulary makes every praise double in effect, but I feel like you spend more time praising the film than really explaining what makes it tick, if you see what I mean. Second of all, I don’t think you can say that Luchini’s character is a victim, because that assumes that Claude is in total control, which I don’t think he ever is, he’s intelligent, and he’s manipulative but he isn’t totally in control. Is it not assuming too much of the character to think that he had foreseen the every effect his writing would have? Did he really know what would happen when he took that last page of writing to Monsieur Germain’s appartment? As always though, for the most part, I couldn’t agree more with you, beautiful film.

    1. Flo Post author

      Thanks for your comment. However I’d like to ask, at what point did I profess to be impartial? I agree that I have an idolizing tone, but then i do genuinely believe this to be one of the most sophisticated and engaging pieces of cinema I have ever seen. My goal is to share my opinions, which doesn’t necessarily encompass indepth analysis. Also I think that Monsieur Germain does become a victim, but of his own poor decisions. He is pulled into a cycle which everyone can see will end badly and it his own weakness and obsession that leads to his loss. I am however glad that you enjoyed the film and hearing my view.

      1. tristanbruemmer

        Fair enough, please forgive my misinterpretations of your intentions, I just wanted to double check. Your opinion, for me especially, is a valued one, and if you genuinely think this is as good as you say, then in my eyes your opinion is not an unfounded one.
        Yes, he is a victim of himself, but I had the impression that you were saying that he became a victim of Claude, although I guess you could say that he pushes Claude and in so doing sets Claude up to cause his “loss” as you put it. In any case, I would say that Claude becomes more intermediary, almost as half real as the characters in Claude’s story, when it comes to the eventual demise of the poor French teacher.

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