Complicated story of a relationship between a master and an apprentice, a teacher and a pupil.
This is an adaptation of a play, yet the way Ozon transformed it onto the big screen does not give that feeling. The voiceover which I usually strongly oppose – here works perfectly and I even did not realise it was there – as it blended so smoothly into the narrative, into the story, into the film.
Emmanuelle Seigner as Esther is the perfect middle class woman, fascinating a 16-year old Claude. As a crude experiment he lets himself into her house by trickily making friends with classmate Rapha, who appears to be Esther’s son.
Claude also teams up with his literature teacher who, spotting a rare talent, becomes an unlikely ally to Claude’s excursions. Mr. Germain is married to Jeanne (Kristin Scott-Thomas) and the duo become avid readers of the story that Claude unveils in front of them inch by inch. Every episode (submitted in the disguise of homework) is finished by the ‘to be continued’ term.
Magically all the characters get entangled into what soon becomes a very blurred mix of fiction and reality.
As Germain teaches Claude the basics of storytelling, it is Claude who will soon take over the baton and teach his professor a lesson he will never forget.
Ernst Umhauer (Claude) has the magnetism of an Adonis, with an inconceivable amount of innocence. It is immensly hard to depict Claude as the evil puppet-master.
What opens up as a light comedy turns out not so light towards the end.
Great costumes, interior design, amazing dialogues – brisk and canny, impeccable acting and as always fantastic entertainment with a grain of salt.
It’s a story about crossing the lines and seeing what’s on the other side. It’s a story about exceeding the limits that would normally not be reached. It is a valid lesson for those who write and do not hesitate to source their inspirations from real life people. Sometimes it is simply safer to rely on imagination. For both sides.