“La Haine” is a film about life at the bottom of the socioeconomic totem pole. The story goes as such: In a neighborhood of impoverished housing projects on the outskirts of Paris, riots broke out the previous night in response to the vicious beating and hospitalization of a neighborhood resident by police officers. Our protagonists—a trio of friends named Saïd, Vinz and Hubert—spend the following day bouncing around different locales in the neighborhood, observing the aftermath of the riots as well as engaging in their usual shenanigans.
Through each protagonist, we are shown a different mindset held by people living a lower-class life. Vinz leans towards aggression and violence; he participated in the riots and yearns for the chance to violently resist the system. Hubert, on the other hand, wants to put his past of criminal activity behind him; he wants to escape the projects and live in peace. These two are often at odds as Vinz tries to escalate things and cause conflict while Hubert tries to reign him in.
Saïd doesn’t much care for either side; he prefers to go with the flow. For example, he objected to participating in the riots, not because he thought it was morally wrong, but because they interrupted a drug sale he was trying to make. Saïd is often tasked with keeping his two friends from fighting each other. He epitomizes a repeating theme of the film: “so far, so good”, the idea that people in the projects are just biding their time until disaster eventually strikes.
All three main characters are done fantastically. They each have a lot of depth. When they clash over their differences, they play off each other in such a way that each perspective is explored thoroughly. The actors do a great job bringing them to life, displaying a wide range of emotions and coming off as completely authentic. Most importantly, you can tell that, at the heart of all their interactions, there is an unbreakable bond of friendship. They’ve always got each other’s backs. Even at their lowest points, you can still tell that they care very much for one another.
Another area in which the film shines is its ability to completely immerse you in the setting. The trio’s adventures take them all around the neighborhood and beyond, giving you a large scope of the environment. This point is well exemplified in one of my favorite scenes: A DJ is blaring music out of his fourth-story window for the whole neighborhood to hear. The song is a remix of 90’s American hip hop and the classic French song "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" by Edith Piaf. The camera slowly retreats from the window and pans downward to the residents below, giving a bird’s-eye view. Children are running around playing on the playground. Then the camera rises, showing a vast array of drab, uniform apartment buildings stretching across the horizon. This scene truly made me feel like I was there.
This movie made me feel a lot of different things: joy, laughter, sorrow, anger, and every possible combination therein. I’ve watched it several times and each time, I’ve found something new to appreciate about it. It’s truly a masterpiece in my eyes and I think everybody should see it.
XAVIER CHARLOT- BLOG EDITOR