La Haine

Camille White-Stern
In Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 film La Haine, we follow three kids, Vinz, Hubert and Said, from the banlieu of Paris, but La Haine is about more than following the lives of three suburban kids for 24 hours. La Haine is riddled with social commentary, focusing on racial, generational, and class issues in city of Paris and its suburbs. The film begins following a riot in the banlieu, which results in their friend Abdel being hospitalized. Though the film does not show the riot, knowing that it precipitates what does occur in the film adds to the perpetual sense of tension in the film. Throughout the film viewers get the sense that there is a ticking time-bomb waiting to go off. Kassovitz creates this effect through the film’s narrative in addition to his cinematic choices as the director.
In the narrative Vinz, Hubert and Said are constantly getting into verbal and physical fights with each other and with people they encounter. Vinz helps establish the tone of the film when he announces that if Abdel dies, he will kill a police officer with the gun he had found during the riots.  This indicates to viewers that we are waiting for something to happen.
Cinematically Mathieu Kassovitz brilliantly reflects and enhances the narrative of La Haine. First off, the decision to shoot the film in black and white has meaning. My own opinion is that it represents the idea of seeing the world in black and white. Vinz is a character who tends to see things in black and white, especially when it comes to identity. In terms of his own identity, Vinz feels very strongly that he knows exactly who he is and where he comes from; being from the banlieu is a central part of his identity, and it could even be said that he feels it is his whole identity. Hubert serves as a foil to Vinz, as he Hubert does not see things in black and white. For instance, while Vinz condemns every member of the police, Hubert recognizes and tries to convince Vinz that killing a cop will not solve any of their problems; Hubert understands and tries to explain to Vinz that “hate only breeds hate”.  Another potential understanding for the film being shot in black and white is that it reflects the way the rest of the world sees Vinz, Hubert and Said. As kids from the banlieu of Paris, there is a stigma attached to them that they cannot escape, especially when dealing with the police. Kassovitz also comments on the way Parisians view kids from the banlieu in the scene where Vinz, Hubert and Said cause a scene at the art gallery in Paris.  After the three boys exit the gallery the old man comments, referring to them as “troubled youth”.

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