Sunday, 5 December 2010



'La Haine', as the more astute readers will have worked out, is a French film (stay with me) chronicling a day in the life of three friends - Vinz, Hubert and Said - after a riot sparked by the injury of a friend, Abdel, whilst in police custody. As a result of the injury, Abdel lies comatose in a Parisian hospital. As you can see, this is a tale filled with jubilance, laughter and love. Not quite.

To add to the melancholy of the premise, the film is set against the harsh backdrop of a Parisian 'banlieue'. Banlieux are areas of low-income housing situated on the outskirts of cities, the U.K. equivalent being a council estate, largely inhabited by immigrant workers. In recent years, banlieux have been made famous (or infamous) by the video for 'Stress' by Justice, which shows the violent rampage of a group of men in leather jackets with bats. Nice. This film really shows the ugliness of the banlieues, the poverty, the grip violence has over the estate, far the from the traditional view of Paris we know and love. Throughout the film, the Eiffel Tower stands proud on the horizon, exemplifying how far away, both geographically and metaphorically, the banlieue is from the glamour and beauty of Paris. And, if you haven't already gone to fetch some rope, the film is shot entirely in black and white. But before you go, I must warn you: this film is good. Ridiculously good.

As the title would suggest, the film is essentially about hate. Vinz declares that if Abdel dies, he will kill "a pig" (police officer). He doesn't say it emotionally, yet matter-of-factly. Vinz is a character which really reflects the anger of the banlieue - the police are militant, treating the denizens of the banlieues like animals. He is, like the other two characters in the play, borderline poverty stricken. Whilst watching the film, Stockholm syndrome takes effect; you greatly sympathise with the characters. I was on the side of the protagonists throughout the whole film - surprisingly, you find yourself asking, "Well, can you blame them?"

Perhaps using Vinz as an object of our sympathy is a bad example. If anyone, he is the person in the film we least sympathise with, desperately trying to portray a big-man bravado, or, to put it bluntly (at the expense of my credibility) "trying to be gangster". There is a harrowing scene in which he recites the notorious taxi driver quote in front of the mirror (in French, of course, which is actually quite funny). "You talkin' to me?" he says (again, in French), and puts his fingers into the shape of a gun, as seen in the picture above. Vinz is a complicated character, battling with his grief towards Abdel, and his desperate quest for status. He even steals an officers gun, or "rod", to the anger of Hubert, flaunting it throughout the film like a child would a new toy at Christmas. But throughout the film, you can't help but have faith in Vinz. He's a funny, likeable character, with "your mother" (or, "ta mère, I couldn't resist) jokes running through the film, this witty dialogue bringing the comic relief to an otherwise difficult watch.

Vinz offers the wannabe perspective, with Hubert taking the "do-gooder" role, placing Said firmly in the middle. Hubert is the character which utters the line from which the film was named: "La haine attire la haine!", "hate breeds hate!" which perfectly encapsulates his character, his beliefs. It would be easy for him to take Vinz's stance, and be a vengeful, gun-toting product of the projects. But instead, we see Hubert desperately trying to escape throughout the film, trying to do the best with the cards he has been dealt. Whilst on a train journey to Paris, he sees an advertisement saying "the world is yours", a clever tactic by director Mathieu Kassovitz, a nod to Hubert's escapism. This seems an apt time to mention Kassovitz's direction, the harsh banlieux being excellently portrayed. It may be wrong, but heck - the film OOZES cool. For all the wrong reasons, YOU WANT TO LIVE ON A BANLIEUE. There is a scene which shows a group of three street dancing which is simply mesmerising.

Contrary to it's depressing nature, the film is surprisingly uplifting. It is funny and sharp as a tack, with emphasis from Hubert that hate gets you nowhere (the hippy in me is buzzing), the film having a firm moral stance, contrasting to the den of iniquity that is the banlieue. Not much happens in the film - it is, although not your average, "a day in the life" film. But everything is just right. With an ending which will throw your predictions right off course, this is a film which never lets you feel comfortable. With the plot chugging along, taking unexpected jolts when all seems settled, it will definitely keep you on your toes. If you call yourself young, if you're an aspiring human being, you NEED to see this film. It's influence will linger for a very long time.

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