This film is a Chinese box. Reality inside fiction. Fiction inside fantasy. Fantasy inside wish. A story nested inside many others, all “In the House”. A boy writes for his frustrated teacher about his real life… supposedly. The teacher makes the boy a protege, but critiques his story, which is the boy’s real life… maybe.
Soon the teacher, his wife, and the audience are caught up. Are we voyeurs to the boys real life, stalking real people, or just watching fictionalized people in a story? What happens when the watchers become characters in the story? When we see a scene with the boy’s real father, is it true? Or just a manipulation?
What I love is that I don’t believe the boy is a real stalker, or voyeur, not really. He’s a Houdini escape artist, using art and the mind to escape his real world, and create another. Its just it may… be very dangerous how he’s doing it, because he’s using his fantasy and the fantasies of others, to escape his own reality and using real lives to do so… sort of. So he’s dangerous, but in your heart can you forgive him? Or are you being duped? He’s a very clever kid.
In a way he makes the lives of others more real to themselves, for which there are consequences. A middle class mother Esther, who the boy inappropriately woos, falls right back in using a child to escape her boring life. Her son might kill himself, or just get in touch with his sexual identity, who knows. The teacher’s wife Jeanne escapes her unreal life when the boy tells her a secret… maybe. The people in real lives that his fiction illuminates are changed forever.
As an artist he needs to be able to describe his own real life. But he’s too young for that, he needs his imagination to escape first. Then later, he can return… to somewhere, a home ‘inside the house’ where he is respected, cared for, wanted. First you have to imagine it possible. Reality is a burden if you can’t escape it.
What I really respect about this film, is that the boy sees the people in the lives he wants, more clearly than they see themselves. They feel his clarity as an invasion, or criticism. But really it is a begrudging acceptance that no matter how stupid or vacuous their concerns, their lives hold the key to his escape.