The German film The Picture in the House (Das Bild im Haus) is director David Lapuch’s loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same title. The dread sets in from the opening scene and never lets up, fittingly appropriate to the source material, adapted here by Lapuch and his screenplay cowriter Alexandra Rollett.
Pascal Goffin plays a nameless man who is all too familiar with death in a postapocalyptic world. Viewers are introduced to him as he holds his dying brother in a snowy forest, with the corpse of a man who died from having his throat slashed sitting just a few feet away. On the run from those who knew the dead person, the man wanders to a house inhabited by an older man (C.C. Weinberger).
Relatives and friends of the slain man soon arrive at the house, and the homeowner untruthfully tells them that the stranger is not there. Unconvinced, they reluctantly leave for the time being. It is during this scene that viewers discover something is wrong with these people — if people is the correct word to call them.
The man on the run and the older man have uneasy conversations while the former commands the latter to tend to his stab wound. A curious book sits on the kitchen table, and gloom gives way to terror as the film reveals secrets that both men harbor.
At a running time of 40 minutes, The Picture in the House is somewhere between an extended short and a shorter-length feature film. It feels like the perfect amount of time needed for Lapuch to tell his cinematic tale, which unfolds slowly but satisfyingly as mysteries are slowly uncovered, and gripping back story of the younger man is divulged.
The acting from the two leads is nothing short of top-notch. Goffin plays his character with an intensity and sense of urgency, while Weinberger invests his homeowner with a calmer, more patient approach.
Vincent Seidl’s cinematography is sumptuous, wonderfully capturing the beautiful outdoor shots, the peculiar interior of the house, and fine shots of the two lead performers as they put on an acting clinic.
Many filmmakers and cinephiles have stated that trying to bring Lovecraft’s written works to the screen is no easy feat. Lapuch has done a marvelous job with The Picture in the House.
The Picture in the House screened at H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, which ran in Portland, Oregon, from October 4–6.(4.5 / 5)