Tuesday, January 13, 2015

La Haine (1995)

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Writer:    Mathieu Kassovitz
Cast:       Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, Said Taghmaoui
Language: French

After local youth Abdel is beaten unconscious by police, a riot ensues on a Banlieue (project/estate/slum) in Paris during which a policeman loses his gun. The gun is found by Vinz who threatens to his friends that he will kill a cop if Abdel dies.

The principal cast used their own first names as names for the characters and they are a gang of three friends with Vinz being a Jew, Hubert a black guy and Said an Arab Muslim. I had seen the film around six years ago and the motivation to watch it again came when I read an article, related to the recent Charlie Hebdo event, which covered the issue of propensity of French youth from Banlieues to get radicalized because of the systemic neglect and police brutality. The author compares it to the 60s movement in Europe and US when the youth had Vietnam as a cause but since they were primarily from middle class background with education, they got naturally de-radicalized after the fad got over. This is not the case with the radicalized youth in France who takes up causes like the situation Palestine egged on by the batshit crazy fundamentalist preachers. The link for the article is: http://blogs.mediapart.fr/blog/olivier-tonneau/110115/charlie-hebdo-letter-my-british-friends

Film starts with the lines spoken by Hubert who is the most sensible among the three characters and wants to gets out of the projects: "Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good... so far so good... so far so good. How you fall doesn't matter. It's how you land!". It again comes up during the last shot of the film where Vinz compares the guy who is falling to the system itself which is sleepwalking to a crash. "It's about a society on its way down. And as it falls,it keeps telling itself: "So far so good... So far so good... So far so good." It's not how you fall that matters. It's how you land." Vinz in the film is trying to carry himself like Travis Bickle from 'Taxi Driver' and the French version of 'You talking to me' is funny as hell. Said is like the cheer-leading monkey among the three trying to be a buffer to the tension between Vinz and Hubert. Film depicts 20 hours of their lives after the riots and is shot in black and white which gives it a timeless feel. Cinematography is stunning as is some of the sudden change in tones of how it is edited. There is an international feel to the whole thing with the usage of English songs in soundtrack, Hollywood film references and an 'Elvis shot JFK' t-shirt. I guess the whole situation is not much different in plenty of other European and US cities. The usage of 'Nique la Police', interspersed with that kick theme from Inception, was also glorious with Cut Killer himself appearing as the DJ. The ending comes with no warning and is heartbreaking. You expect that fate for another character from the film. I loved the story of the man beating up a nun thinking she was batman. 

Film was a huge critical success and retains a rating of 100 in rottentomatoes. Upon its release the then Prime Minister of France, Alain Juppe, commissioned a special screening for his cabinet in which attendance was mandatory. The title for the film comes from Hubert's line 'La Haine attire la Haine!' meaning 'Hatred breeds hatred'. Vincent Cassel had his career breakthrough with this film playing a 19 year old even though he was 28 at that time.

Rating: 5/5