Newest Review: ... incorporating street slang into the mix, this is a film best enjoyed in its native language. The DVD contains English subtitles, and do ... more
La Haine - hatred breeds hatred
La Haine (HD DVD)
Member Name: jesperado
La Haine (HD DVD)
Advantages: Superb acting, engaging storyline
Disadvantages: Kassovitz is miscast as a skinhead
WHAT IS IT: La Haine is a French film - shot in black and white and released in 1995 - directed and written by Mathieu Kassovitz. It is in French with English subtitles and is around 90 minutes long. The film centres around 3 young men living on an impoverished housing estate in France. Vinz (Vincent Cassel), a French Jew, is full of rage at the injustices he is subjected to and the constant state of tension between the police and local youths in the aftermath of riots. Said is a talkative Maghrebin (French but of Moroccan/Algerian/Tunisian/Libyan/Mauritanian descent) who shares Vinz's dislike of the police but tries to keep the peace between everyone. Hubert is an Afro-French boxer and drug dealer who is philosophical about the situation he sees around him even when his gym gets burnt down during the riots. He suspects Vinz may have been involved and finds his aggressive attitude irritating. When a friend of the young men is put into a coma as a result of police brutality and Vinz finds a police officer's gun, he vows to kill a cop if the young man, Abdel, dies. The three young men have a number of run-ins with the police as well as encountering racism at the hands of a gang of skinheads.
STYLE: Starkly shot in black and white, the film flits between the real and surreal. Many of the scenes have little action in them and instead focus on the dialogue between the three men which seems like an accurate portrayal of how young men really interact with each other even down to Said's constant retelling of the punchlines of weak jokes. The violence in the film is not gratuitous and the scenes in which Said and Hubert are held by police officers are shocking in their brutality without seeming cheap or deliberately provocative. The gritty subject matter of the film is reflected in the lack of colour but the bursts of the surreal stop the film from being too 'worthy' or pretentious. There is a whimsical element in the film which works very well in contrast with the serious subject matter. The film is set to French hip-hop with works beautifully with sweeping shots of cityscapes and the veering overhead view of the estate which leaves the viewer feeling as high as the protagonists!
VINZ: Played beautifully by Vincent Cassel, Vinz fancies himself as a gangster and rehearses the 'You looking at me?' scene from Taxi Driver in the bathroom mirror. He sees it as a kill or be killed world but his reaction to the music being played from the upper floors of tenement blocks shows that he'd rather be a dancer than a fighter. It is never made clear whether he was involved in the trashing of Hubert's gym but there is an uneasiness between the two of them which makes for compelling viewing.
SAID: Said is quite lovable in a motor-mouthed kid kind of way. You sense that his almost constant babbling and cheeky nature may well get him into trouble in the future and there is an innocence about him which could be dangerous for him in a world where the police seize upon the tiniest excuse to arrest youths, particularly non-whites.
HUBERT: Hubert is the strong silent type and muses on the state of the world around him. He does all that he can to provide for his family, a responsibility which we don't see from the other two men. He longs to escape the slums and his frustration at the hatred and violence around him is very hard to watch. For someone who says so little, he has an incredible emotional impact.
GOOD POINTS: I really enjoyed this film. It constantly kept my attention without resort to flash-bang special effects as many films would when dealing with the subjects of urban unrest, racism, violence and police brutality. It avoids showing the riots apart from the documentary footage over the opening credits, preferring to show the aftermath of the riots by showing what the characters have lost, such as Hubert's wrecked gym. The key performances are superb and the dialogue is so natural that it is very easy to watch and you instantly become engaged with the characters. The violence in it is very striking in it's brutality but does not go on for too long and does not feel forced - it actually serves the story which unfortunately is quite rare in films these days. The surreal elements serve to break up the story and give the sense that even in the midst of horrible surroundings there is always room for laughter and amusement. The soundtrack is fantastic and the use of music in the film is absolutely seamless.
BAD POINTS: My main gripe with this film is that Mathieu Kassovitz plays the skinhead that tries to attack the three protagonists. He is quite clearly Jewish as is Cassel and his presence as a skinhead disrupts what is otherwise a very realistic portrayal of racism in an inner city area. There are moments where the film lags a little but these are not frequent enough to ruin it for me.
Summary: An excellent film and a very thoughtful portrayal of racism and brutality in an inner city