You might be put off from watching La Haine by the subject, setting, or the black and white style of filming, but I assure you this movie is worth your attention. More than twenty years later it’s still as powerful and current as it was in the nineties. It explores a lot more subjects than it seems at first look as it showcases the system we all live in. The movie might be set in the Parisian ghetto, but we all know similar areas in our cities, no matter their size. It’s not some artsy-fartsy drama looking for rewards and praise but a raw and unfiltered look into the lives of three young guys.
As it always happens with these masterpieces, all the stars align and every aspect of La Haine is just pure perfection. I could spend a lot of time talking about the way the characters are introduced and subsequently developed. About the authentic and gritty setting providing the atmosphere required for this type of movie. About the performances of our young actors who perfectly captured that feeling of young adult angst. All the little things we see along the way, like voyeurs watching as the doomed lives of our protagonists unfold.
If I had to choose something to talk about, I would choose The Story. The story of a man falling from a building and saying to himself: so far, so good. It encapsulates everything this movie was about and a lot of the incomprehensible logic born out of life itself. Nihilistic and at the same time oddly optimistic and hopeful, it describes all our lives in this techno feudal world. The world still ruled by an ancient tribal system of values and rich people clinging on to their wealth. I should stop myself now before I start ranting and bore you to death, so let us focus on the movie.
Vinz, Hubert, and Saïd are three friends living in the rough Parisian hood, mostly populated by immigrants. They spend their days fucking around, smoking weed, and trying to escape the poverty that’s surrounding them. A couple of nights ago, police beat up one of the immigrants so bad that he ended up in hospital fighting for his life. This caused the riots in which our trio seemingly participated. We follow the next 24 hours of their young lives…
Don’t think that just because “we follow their lives”, La Haine is boring because it’s most certainly not. The atmosphere is incredibly engaging and vibrant as each new scene immerses us in this world we rarely see. Granted, with all the documentaries and vloggers, that changed in recent years. What is most certain is that this is a very honest and intense character study. We will come to know our trio quite well. We will learn about their dreams, fears, and horrible starting point in life. Society offers them no other place to climb than the streets with almost every other safety net broken.
The plot is compelling and engaging amplified by the beautiful black and white cinematography. Leave to the fucking French to make a movie like this without an ounce of pretentiousness. However, the best thing about La Haine is the opportunity to enjoy and find out these things for yourself. And if you’re looking for more nineties classics I recommend you check out Trainspotting, L.627, Do The Right Thing, Pusher and Kids. And if you’re looking for some really grim and fucked up nihilism, you can always watch Seul Contre Tous, another nineties cult classic.
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Writer: Mathieu Kassovitz
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui, Abdel Ahmed Ghili, Rywka Wajsbrot, Olga Abrego, Choukri Gabteni, Benoît Magimel
Fun Facts: The DJ who appears in the upstairs project window and scratches with Cut Killer’s “Nique la Police” is actually Cut Killer himself.