6 August 2007 | Sergeant_Tibbs
"La Haine"; Mathieu Kassovitz' stark social study of violence, fear and hatred, remains the powerful masterpiece it was in '95.
In 1995, Mathieu Kassovitz wrote and directed a film that showed the controversial truth; "La Haine", which translates to "Hate", a film deemed so important the then-prime minister Alain Juppé arranged a special screening and ordered his entire cabinet to watch the film. Kassovitz rightfully won the Best Director award at the Cannes festival for his film that had and still has a huge impact on French society. La Haine mixes ethnics to emphasise the overriding importance of solidarity against the police. In my opinion, the greatest film ever made. A cinematic phenomenon so close to my heart.
It is the day after the riots on an underclass French estate (the film opens with real footage of riots with the suitable soundtrack of Bob Marley's Burnin' and Lootin'). A youth named Abdel had been caught and beaten by the police and is now in critical condition. One of his very best friends, Vinz (Jewish), had found a cop's weapon. He swears that if Abdel dies he will kill a cop. The majority of the film revolves around Vinz and his two other friends Hubert (Afro-Caribbean) and Saïd (North African) roaming around their ghetto and suburbs of Paris. Set just within 24 hours, this is just a glimpse of the chaos.
There is an image in La Haine where Vinz (Vincent Cassel) imitates Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) in the mirror; "You talking' to me?" and then points his fingers like a gun and fires. This is not an action he only does once as he repeats it twice during the film. But why? He has a gun. Is this preparation? Yes. Vinz has to prepare because he is scared. And he has to see what it looks like, to make sure it looks "cool", as when he does kill a cop, he will get an undeserved respect by his peers. There is another scene in which Vinz and Hubert bump into a cop while trying to run from this. Vinz' first instinct is to pull the gun on him, this shows that the first instinct has now become violence. The reaction to violence is fear (which is apparent in the cops face until Hubert knocks him out). Fear creates hate; or, the thought and idea of hate. Like the youths feel they are supposed to hate the cops. Vinz is the angriest central character, but when he had his chance, he hesitates; consequences are not forgotten. Cassel performs Vinz with brute force, not failing to portray his character for a second.
Hubert (Hubert Koundé), the most subtle character in the film, remains quiet and gentle, although he is a boxer; or a fighter; for the majority of the film. He has a longing to escape. He has no idea who to trust. Everyone is a thug. This is the stereotype that has been created. But not even a thug wants this thought about them. He is always watching the hatred breed around him but never takes part. But when it comes to the cut, the action and reaction is always the same and he proves himself wrong. Koundé put a lot of effort into his role and earns his praise.
Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui); possibly the most vibrant character of the three, feels as if he has to be something, he hates change but he follows the crowd, he wants to be accepted. He appears to be everybody's friend as he constantly makes jokes. This is because his family is dead so Vinz and Hubert; and possibly Abdel but we don't know since we only ever hear about Abdel, so they are basically his family. But if they get into trouble they wouldn't hesitate to leave each other. It's every man for himself. Cassel, Koundé and Taghmaoui work so well together its as if they have known each other for years.
The youths are stuck on the idea that the cops are there to stop them, and they refuse the idea that the cops are there in fact to protect them. And the youths express hatred with violence. Sexual intercourse is not an issue in this society as it is too dangerous to have a girlfriend, as it will spawn more violence, thus more hatred. La Haine does not offer solutions to all the racism but in fact, shows you in a detailed and mature manner.
Starkly shot in black and white; La Haine has one of my favourite cinematography works. Kassovitz directional style is so inspirational, using rocketing zooms and smooth swerves to get the full view of the destruction. Popular hip hop music is used and heard throughout the film, none of it I would listen to unless I was watching La Haine. The film shows a side of France you can not find on a tourist map. Passion, dedication and effort was well put forward to La Haine. It punches you in the face with its sheer, raw intensity.
The films most important quote is the one it opens and shuts with: - "Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good... so far so good... so far so good. How you fall doesn't matter. It's how you land!". This directly reflects the films content, structure and result. La Haine proves that hatred is in fact the strongest emotion. One of the greatest films of the 90s and of all-time; if there was one perfect film; it would be La Haine.