I came across my old portfolio from when I studied Film back at A-Level (I think that’s Senior High School in the U.S.?) … anyway I came across a review I wrote for a french film called La Haine. I remebered how good it was so thought I’d put a review down:
Written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, La Haine (translated as “Hate”) follows the story of three adolescents in the suburbs of Paris during the aftermath of one of the many real-life riots of the 90’s. Vinz (Vincent Cassel) plays a Jew portrayed as a doomed figure of criminal stereotypes. Constantly seeking respect from his fellow peers, he models his thug image after Robert DeNiro’s “Travis Bickle” from Taxi Driver. Said (Said Taghmaoui) is an Arab and provides the films voice over, as well as being the disillusioned rogue. Hubert is a boxer who takes a more philosophical approach to the ghetto life, wanting to leave the violence behind.
Not dissimilar to Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”, Kassovitz portrays Paris as a melting pot of cultures ready to overflow over a turbulent 24 hours. The already fragmented identities of the characters are forced into a tense conflict when they discover a gun left behind by one of the riot police. The words “with that gun, you’re the big man on the estate” sum up the mentality of many of the youths, especially Vinz, who is shown to be greatly influenced when in possession of the gun.
It is this powerful writing from Kassovitz, and excellent performances by the actors, most notably Cassel who went on to break into mainstream cinema, that make this film a powerful and emotional exploration into the many social issues concerning French society.
The film is entirely shot in black and white, complimenting the gritty suburbs of Paris and the bleak atmosphere surrounding its inhabitants. Similarly, the documentary style camera work effectively captures the voyeuristic atmosphere of the film, as we constantly follow the three characters as they aimlessly wander the streets. Kassovitz’s craft of building tension is also apparent as the characters sense of frustration at their society is gradually built up throughout the film, erupting in later scenes of the film.
La Haine is definitely a must see for all fans of cinema, offering an evocative comment on French society, deep and involving character and plot developments and one of the most climatic and ambiguous endings I’ve ever scene. Next time your in the video shop scope the World Cinema section for this one
Click the video below for a little taster (no spoilers)