In the House
Event Q&A Transcript
Obviously the film is set in a school and we’re looking at teachers, I think you’re parents were teachers? Is there something of an autobiographical element to it?
Yes my father and my mother were teachers so I was all of my childhood in this environment of teachers, so I know how it can be depressing to be a teacher, how it can be difficult sometimes to have some very bad students. So I was in that environment and I know very often my parents were depressed, because it’s difficult to be a teacher and sometimes you lose your passion for teaching and suddenly there is a student in the back row, who is a kind of genius, and suddenly you have again the passion of teaching and realize it’s important.
I particularly liked the ‘story within a story’ kind of framework, and the fact that it goes into the world of Claude. Can you explain how that came about for you and the process making that.
For me it was very important at the beginning of the film to make clear what is fiction, what is reality, what is the reality of the story. And step-by-step, in the mise-en- scene, in the direction, I tried to mix the two things. The fiction and the reality, and to give the audience the opportunity to ask themselves ‘is it true? Is it fake? Is it imagination?’, you know, to engage the spectator in the story like the teacher is engaged. He wants to know what will happen and he is totally addicted to the story of Claude, so I wanted to give the same feeling to the audience.
Woody Allen does that in his films, and going back further, Bergman. Were they influences on you?
Yes, we had Woody Allen in mind, especially for the couple of Germain and Jeanne , the character of Kristin Scott Thomas. We had in mind Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. This intellectual couple who have very big conversations about art, about literature, and they often had some ideas and contradictions with their acts. So it was funny to have this rhythm and tempo of relationship.
At film school Eric Rohmer was one of your teachers, what did you learn from him?
Yes it was funny because you can imagine Eric Rohmer is a very intellectual professor, but actually he was absolutely not like that. He was a very concrete. Speaking about the carpet in his movies. Where you have to buy the least expensive carpet in Paris. It’s very important. He was very obsessed with money, and so it was funny to see that.
Is your film some reflection of French identity?
For me it’s more about a place. You realize at the end of the film that the fascination of Claude of this middle class family comes maybe from the fact that he is looking for a place. When you see his social background at the end with his father and his house, you understand his fascination and maybe you realise he’s just looking for a social place and he would like to part of this perfect family. Everybody is quite lonely in the film, everybody is not at the right place. So for me it’s more about that.
There are a lot of references to Chinese artists. Is there a reason for that or is it just part of the play?
It was in the play, but I think that there is a kind of obsession about China, and fear about China, because for many people China represents the future in terms of economy, and culture, and power, so I thought it was interesting to have this context in the film. Especially with the father (Rapha’s father) who thinks that he can do some business in China, and with the art in the gallery too with Jeanne who wants to propose a Chinese artist.
How long did it take you to make this film?
The writing was about 6 months. The shooting 2 months, and after the editing process was about 4 or 5 months. All the work was about 1 year. I saw the play 4 years ago, and when I wanted to keep the rights, I realized the rights were already taken by a Spanish director, so I had to wait. He couldn’t make his movie and I couldn’t make my own movie.
In your film there were many different genres that mixed together, and I was wondering if it was your own style or if there is a general trend in film making in the last years.
I think it really comes from the story of Claude, because Claude doesn’t know exactly what type of story he’s telling and the professor is saying what do you want to do? Do you want to do a bawdy? Do you want to do a comedy? A drama? A thriller? So in terms of my mise-en-scene, my direction, I tried to follow this different tone and it was a real challenge, and a pleasure for me to go in different directions. In the beginning of the film the view of Claude on Rapha’s family is very ironic, cynical, and step-by-step he becomes more interested in the family. He falls in love with the housewife, and his view on the family is changing and the tone of his essay too is more dramatic.
The press over here associates you more with melodrama and sexuality, with this the reviews relate this more with Hitchcock and the ending has a Rear Window-esque to it. Was that a conscious thing? More of a thriller?
Yes, because it’s a film about the place of the spectator and the link you can have with the audience. Hitchcock is the best reference of that because he was the first director to terrorize the place of the spectator, so of course it was obvious to end with this reference of Hitchcock.
The actor Fabrice Luchini, You’ve worked with before in your film Potiche. You’ve worked with several actors again and again. Why do you like to have that, is it a comfort for you?
No it’s not a comfort. It’s just the fact when you do a film with an actor in one mood, sometimes you want to do something different. The part that Fabrice had in Potiche was totally different from this one. He was not very happy on Potiche because it was the film of Catherine Deneuve, and not his movie, it was the supporting part. In the case of this film it was a really deep part, and he was nicer than in Potiche, because in Potiche he was the mean character. For this film he was very happy because Fabrice took an ear for the French. He’s like a literature teacher of French, you know, because he has a passion for French literature. So the character is very close to him.
I’m a very fond of 5x2 and 8 Women, especially and I was wondering which kind of film you get the most fulfillment from directing. From a musical or something more dark perhaps.
Each time is a new experience and a new challenge. What I like is not to repeat myself. Each time I need some new challenge, and the feeling of doing something new. If I repeat myself it can be boring because to do a film is such a big work, so I like to change. I’m like Claude, you know, I like to go in a different direction and try different genre. That’s the richness of cinema.
I was very impressed by the actor who played Claude and I wondered where you found him. If it was an auditioning process?
It is his first feature. It was quite difficult because the character was very important and one big part of the film was on his shoulders, and I needed someone in front of Fabrice Luchini who is a very professional, and sometimes difficult, actor. So first I met many boys of 17 years old, and I realised that they were not mature enough to play such a part, so I decided opened the cast. I met this young boy, Ernst Umhauer, and he was actually 21. But the good thing was that he looked very very young. He looked 16 or 15, so it was perfect because he had the maturity, and actually he is very close to the character of Claude, because he doesn’t live in Paris, in the country, and he comes from a difficult social background. So he was close to the character and at the same time he has an amazing look. He has beautiful eyes, and because it’s a film about a voyeur it was important to have his face. We did a lot of readings, we worked a lot before the shooting because I wanted him to be comfortable in front of Fabrice Luchini, and we recorded all of the voiceover before the shooting, which helped him to be totally engaged and involved in the film.