In the House: What a smart movie - all about narratives....
Family narratives lie at the heart of the matter, Claude dealing with his disabled father, the supposedly happy (but decidedly miserable, nuclear family) and the professional, childless couple. They create their own little narratives as well as stories about others but they’re all playing narrative games. Genuinely funny moments arise when the middle-class obsession with crap or misunderstood art surfaces or when they can’t help but want to know the gossip behind the story. They’re shallow, bored and keep themselves interested by making up little narratives or poking into the business of others.
Claude makes up little stories to keep his own story going, then uses the reactions of the reader to create the next episode of the narrative. All along we don’t know how much of the story is the result of the author’s imagination or observed episodes. Everyone is trading fictions.
The ‘student – teacher’ narrative is reversed and school is full of false narratives, such as the crass uniformity of uniforms and lessons that are simply regurgitated tropes. Schools teach fixed fictions. This is damn clever as it provides the story arc for the whole film – the narrator is the outsider but also the creator. Teacher-learner is reversed as is reader-writer, cricic-writer, character-person, fiction-non-fiction. You lose yourself in the reversals.
The teacher’s wife has opened up a truly awful gallery in town brimming with bad art, appalling brochures with those over-blown narratives that only the ‘art’ industry can produce, full of abstractions and overblown claims.
We end on a park bench with a tramp looking in at an array of apartment windows. This solitary figure has no social narratives, he’s simply alone on the bench. He’s more objective than all of the urban fantasists. Smart. I was amused to read several reviews that decry the films lack of an ending. This is the problem with film critics, they have their own narratives and one is that of the ‘resolved ending’. The whole point, Bradshaw and Quinn, is that this is the downside of forced narratives or narrative enslavement. It is deliberately open ended. Life goes on and on and on.