Wednesday, 19 April 2017

La Haine (1995)

Fig 1 - La Haine Poster
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, La Haine follows a day in the life of three Parisian youths during the aftermath of a brutal riot that exacerbates tensions between the police and the impoverished. Vinz, Hubert and Saïd (Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui) spend the majority of their time pottering around aimlessly with a joint ablaze, making explicit jabs regarding ones mother and generally finding themselves on the wrong side of the law at every turn. Their friend Abdel (who does not appear outside of news coverage) was hospitalised during the riots, sparking a newfound hatred for the police among the young men. News coverage also reports the loss of an officer's handgun during the riots, which Vinz soon admits to his friends he is in possession of and openly declares he'll use it against the police if Abdel does not pull through.

Though I do have a few underlying problems with the film, overall I can safely say it was never boring. The economically-deprived atmosphere felt incredibly well established, with it's all-encompassing relationships between shady characters seeming all rather legitimate. The cinematography often uses experimental shots to justify the relationship between action and reaction, which made certain scenes all the more powerful. Performances on the whole were incredibly well-executed, with Vincent Cassell standing out as the hot-headed Travis Bickle wannabe, masterfully capturing the nihilism of post-pubescence despite being considerably older than his character.

Fig 2 - La Haine - Vinz, Hubert & Saïd
Initially, I was wondering whether this was going to be more comparable with works like Trainspotting (1996) or Requiem for a Dream (2000), but as it turns out La Haine is from the perspective of much more naive characters, who have been unwittingly raised in a bad situation and are still figuring out some form of redemption for themselves in isolated moments. Incidentally, we are only led to believe that the criminal actions of these boys are derivative of their social climate. Nothing in their home lives suggest that any of them should be as unpleasant as they are at times, so it is only in their naivety that we can assume they behave like adolescents to the point of risking their likability to the audience. I myself found it difficult to root for any one person in this film, as it shows both youths and police in a good and bad light. It is (as the saturation suggests) not a black and white situation. And what the film fails to do is make me sympathise with any of the central characters, meaning that perilous circumstances often fell flat as they pushed their luck to the point of basically warranting punishment.

Having said that, there is a very captivating quality to La Haine which, in it's reckless abandon, gives the lack of plot a hefty crutch upon which to navigate blindly. I may need to mull this one over a little more, but for now I can safely say the film has a lot going for it and, in it's better moments, exposes and studies the cracks in it's gaping class divide.


Fig. 1 La Haine Poster (1995) From: La Haine - Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz

Fig. 2 La Haine Screenshot (1995) From: La Haine - Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz

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