Starring: Vincent Cassel, Saïd Taghmaoui, Hubert Koundé
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Running Time: 98 mins
La Haine is a French film about the lives of a trio of young men in a working-class area of Paris in the aftermath of a major riot.
Filled to the brim with aggressive energy, but at the same time a genuine and intimate portrayal of life on the edge of society, there’s no denying the value of a film like La Haine, furthered by brilliant, dynamic cinematography and three excellent central performances that make it a hugely striking watch throughout.
The subject matter here is something that a number of films have touched on in the past, but the difference about the approach by La Haine is how it immerses you in the life of its characters living in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of the law, rather than taking a more top-down, documentary-esque approach to looking at this part of society.
So, while its themes have certainly been explored in a number of other films, what La Haine does is bring you right into the middle of a world of struggles, as you form a part of the trio of friends who find themselves at different points of their life, and with different perspectives on their futures as a result of their current situation.
As a result, rather than simply thinking of this as a wide-ranging social portrait of a film, that more intimate, equal approach gives you a far more nuanced and engrossing perspective on living on the edge of society. Of the lead characters, one sees his social standing as an unignorable fact of life, and reacts aggressively as a result, while another strives to find a brighter way forward, no matter how dark things may seem.
That’s where this film really hits home, demonstrating a real range of personal perspectives on life, and giving each of the lead characters and the story as a whole a brilliantly rounded feel, which makes for an immensely more interesting watch as you find yourself all the more engrossed in the lives of these young men.
Of course, as well as its excellent content, the other most striking thing about the film comes in the form of its brilliant cinematography. Fantastically dynamic and modern for its time of release, La Haine is full of swooping long takes and tracking shots, combined with ingenious close-ups and crooked-angle shots that add to the movie’s striking energy, particularly when it comes to embodying both the sense of aggression as well as dramatic pathos.
Couple that with the fantastic choice of black-and-white imagery that adds immensely to that sense of aggression and darkness, and you have a film that’s an absolute triumph of independent cinema, brilliantly tying its engrossing dramatic depth in with inventive and dynamic cinematography throughout.
In short, there’s a lot that makes La Haine a really impressive watch, but if there’s one thing I must say on the negative side, it’s that I didn’t find the film as hard-hitting as I perhaps expected. Its subject matter is ripe for thought-provoking and powerful drama, and while I was enthralled by how intimate a perspective it gives on youth in troubled areas, I can’t say that I ever felt a real emotional punch from the film, which feels rather disappointing particularly when it comes to its riveting but surely more powerful finale.
Overall, though, there’s no denying the value of a film like La Haine. Not only a riveting and engrossing watch with its intimate portrayal of its subject matter, La Haine also proves particularly striking with its fantastic cinematography throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.