Hate is an emotion more powerful than love. It’s in all of us, it’s the root of our culture, and Matthieu Kassovitz’s perfect film, La Haine, captures it in a raw, infectious form. The film immerses the audience in one day in the lives of three friends of different ethnicities that live in the French projects, where violence escalates further when a mutual friend is hospitalized during a riot.This film is spectacularly directed by Kassovitz, and may be one of the most important films of all time.
Filmed in a clean, earthy black and white, almost every frame is picture-perfect. It’s not filmed as a documentary, but the script translates to celluloid so naturally that it feels like one. The style of Kassovitz is a bit avante-garde, in the best ways. The entire film is visual eye-candy. One of my favorite shots is that of DJ Cut Killer spinning right outside his window to blast his creative flow to the whole neighborhood; the camera glides above the neighborhood like a sound wave. The direction matches the power of the material.
All the characters in the film are named after the actors portraying them, allowing the actors to merge with the characters. Saíd, an Arab, is the joker of the three, that is at times passive. He’s the ref of the other two characters, playing peacemaker in a violent world. Vinz (Vincent Cassel) is the hot-head on the verge of breaking. He wants so badly to be the gangster he portrays himself to be; he wants to prove to himself that he’s a man. Lastly, Hubert is a boxing enthusiast, slanging drugs to support his family that looks the other way. Hubert is the voice of reason; a genuinely kind young man that just grew up on the wrong side of the world.
Whether they are cracking jokes to pass the time, fighting with each other, fighting with the fish-bowl of a world they live in or dealing with the rising tension of the police versus the project residents, we feel for them. We almost feel like we’re part of the group because the film is so intimate with these characters. We breathe their air, feel their heartbeats, and live in their minds.
What does this film tell us about hate that we don’t already know? Well, it doesn’t tell us, it simply shows us. Hate thrives in the places where opportunities are few. Tell them they have the power of choice to get out of the projects, and they’ll tell you that society made that choice for them a long time ago. At the end of it all, the three friends have good hearts, even Vinz, but their situation denies them the choice of redemption. There is only hate, violence, and fear; it’s what keeps them alive while it kills their souls.
The film may be too scattered, with no definite plot, for those who are used to or prefer a linear plot.
Translation of narration in the trailer: “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!”
City of God
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