Review: La Haine

La Haine, or Hate as it is known in the US, is a 1995 French drama following a day in the life of three young men wandering the streets of Paris. They are all reeling in the aftermath of their friend, Abdel, being arrested and experiencing severe brutality at the hands of the police. This triggers major riots throughout the city. One of the men, Vinz, played by a young Vincent Cassel, is ready to take his aggression and frustration out on anyone he meets, whether they be the police themselves, women, or other angry young men just like him. His hate and anger lead to deadly consequences for both him and his friends Said and Hubert.

The film is shot entirely in black and white, a stylistic choice enhancing the overall bleakness of the story. There is neither light nor colour in the lives of the main characters, only a grim and dark reality. We as an audience might feel a sense of sadness knowing that, even though this film was made in 1995, police brutality against BIPOC remains a relevant issue and gives the film a tragically timeless feeling. The film uses the violence against Abdel to demonstrate the impact police brutality can have on not only the people related to the victim, but also on wider society as the brutality causes uproar all over Paris.

There is an especially chilling scene where two police officers are teaching another officer the best ways to enact violence on people who have been arrested. It is scenes like that which linger with the audience when we witness the accidental killing of two of the main characters, who are both BIPOC, in custody and who ultimately did nothing wrong – they were only in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, Vinz, the character who has the most reason to be arrested, evades the police and is not subject to this abuse. With this in mind, the black and white colour scheme of the film could be interpreted as showing the brutality of a world where racism and hate crimes are regular occurrences.

This film is a great for cinema lovers as it pays homage to Taxi Driver multiple times. Vinz is seen mimicking Travis Bickle’s famous ‘You talking to me?’ line, giving us an insight into his character early on because, like Travis Bickle, he is a ticking time bomb that will eventually explode. Further, the acting in this movie is incredible. You feel the genuine friendship between Said, Vinz and Hubert and grow attached despite their flaws. However, this only makes the events of the movie even more heart-breaking.

Overall, this film is about the heart-breaking consequences of anger and violence. Hate is a fitting title for the film’s message that hate does not make the world better, it only breeds more hate. After witnessing the shocking consequences of the character’s hatred, the audience is forced to look at their own lives and think about how we can break the chain of hate and racism in the world.

Isabel Walmsley

Featured Image Source: Still via BFI// YouTube. Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

La Haine will be showing in UK cinemas for its 25th anniversary, including at Exeter’s Odeon and Picturehouse

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