La Haine – 1995

La haineLa Haine concerns itself with the gritty reality of life in Paris’ immigrant suburbs. The film is styled almost as a documentary, inspired by a series of real events and even going so far as to have the actors performing under their real names. The credits appear in what looks like police labels over footage of actual riots. The action unfolds within a single 24 hours after these supposed riots and follows three friends: Vinz, Saïd and Hubert, all of whom are of different racial minorities from the estates of Paris.

From that point onwards the storyline is somewhat predictable, the three make their way through the suburbs of Paris, trying to come to terms with their emotional reactions to the potential loss of a friend through a mist of male dominance and revenge violence. The script has a message to deliver to it’s audience and it’s definitely not shy about showing it. Three times we hear the same dramatic monologue about the fall of society and each time it just becomes an even bigger cliché.

However, even if the script is somewhat lacklustre the film does make up for it. All three performances are solid, but Hubert Koundé’s and Vincent Cassel’s are sterling. They play off each other, Vinz begins the film as a petulant child compared to the troubled and mature Hubert. As the character matures, Cassel’s performance is completely believable. All the while Koundé maintains a high intensity and depth of character throughout.

What really shines in this film is the cinematography. Every shot is calculated and choreographed to the point of being an artwork on its own. Almost every shot in the film can be taken as a still and framed. The work in depth of field as a storytelling dimension is astonishing and instinctive for the viewer. The decision to shoot the film in black and white adds significantly. Thematically it shows the foolishness of the racism they encounter when every character is just a shade of grey. It also declutters the visuals and allows the framing and cinematography to stand out even further. Unfortunately this does seem to make the film very badly balanced. You continue watching for the next shot or sequence, not for the next plot development.

  • Entertainment: 2/5
  • Artistic:              5/5
  • Intellectual:       2/5
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