Film Review: La Haine, directed by Mathieu Kassovitz

La Haine, or ‘The Hate’ is a French, episodal film, directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. We follow the lives of three youths: Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui), Vinz (Vincent Cassel) and Hubert (Hubert Koundé), who live in a French suburban ghetto. We see their story over the course of 24 hours, ending with a tense finale. The film is set in the 1990s and it holds strong political and cultural undertones, to a point where it becomes quite difficult to fully understand without knowing information about French politics and its effects on its’ youth. However, limited background knowledge is given for general viewer understanding.

The film echoes the consistency of an art piece. It brings with it messages of how hate can breed and puts forwards a view of the oppressed youth, whilst also presenting a culture. The culture shown seems almost alien as we travel through the ghetto. It is a society filled with guns, crime and hatred for the racist police. It’s a time where ‘it was killing’ has become slang for ‘it was good’, where plain clothes policemen carried weapons and where teens grow up swearing that they’ll kill police. The picture we’re painted through this film is both vivid and unsettling and the actors and directors have portrayed the essence of the time quite well.

However, I feel some of the messages were hidden too keenly. It’s a film where you have to be well informed to fully appreciate and recognise the details within. If you’re unfamiliar with the picture the film is trying to portray, it can be difficult to connect and comprehend its content. You wonder why characters go to certain places, or what happened in whole scenes. Then as the scenes loosely interconnect, you end up losing the film entirely, only picking up on the more vivid concepts.  The scenes themselves also feel slightly disjointed; if they were more transparent and organised it might add extra tension to the finale. The finale itself was the highlight of the film, as it was a subversion of the audience’s initial expectations which brings an exciting surprise. However, the build-up for the shooting takes too long and the story connected with it: ‘so long, so good’, while very a strong and moving concept, is introduced too late into the film. This in itself seems to be the films biggest problem, in that it has many strong and powerful concepts, but they’re squashed together and rushed over.

Overall, the film set a strong snapshot-image of the culture it presented. It gave an intricate, well researched, cultural representation and story that holds several strong messages. However, while I can appreciate it as a statement and art piece, It will always be known as the ‘art-film’ I needed more knowledge of French social culture to me.

Rating: 5/10

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