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La haine

La haine

La Haine is a French black-and-white film written, co-edited, and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, released in 1995. It is commonly released under its French title in the English-speaking world, although its American VHS release was entitled Hate. It is about three teenage friends and their struggle to live in the banlieues of Paris. The title derives from a line spoken by one of them, Hubert: "La haine attire la haine!", "hatred breeds hatred."

The film focuses on a single day in the lives of three friends in their early twenties, from immigrant families living in an impoverished multi-ethnic French housing project (a ZUP zone à urbaniser en priorité) in the suburbs of Paris, in the aftermath of a riot. Vinz (Vincent Cassel), who is Jewish, is filled with rage. He sees himself as a gangster ready to win respect by killing a cop, and practices the role of Travis Bickle from the film Taxi Driver in the mirror. His attitude towards police, for instance, is a simplified, stylized blanket condemnation, even to individual policemen who make an effort to steer the trio clear of troublesome situations. Hubert (Hubert Koundé) is an Afro-French boxer and small time drug dealer, whose gymnasium was burned in the riots. The quietest and most thoughtful of the three, he sadly contemplates the ghetto and the hate around him. He is probably the only one who has a minimum of consciousness about the state of things. He expresses the wish to simply leave this decadent world of violence and hate behind him, but does not know how since he lacks the means to do so. Saïd Sayid in some English subtitles (Saïd Taghmaoui) is a Maghrebin who inhabits the middle ground between his two friends' responses to their place in life.

A friend of theirs, Abdel Ichaha, has been brutalized by the police shortly before the riot and lies in a coma. Vinz finds a policeman's .44 Magnum revolver, lost in the riot. He vows that if their friend dies from his injuries, he will use it to kill a cop, and when he hears of Abdel's death he fantasizes carrying out his vengeance.

The three go through an aimless daily routine and struggle to entertain themselves, frequently finding themselves under police scrutiny. They take a train to Paris but encounter many of the same frustrations, and their responses to benign interactions with Parisians cause the situations to degenerate to gratuitous hostility. A run-in with sadistic Parisian plainclothes police, during which Said and Hubert are humiliated and physically brutalized, results in their missing the last train home and spending the night on the streets. They encounter a group of racist anti-immigrant skinheads who begin to beat Said and Hubert savagely, but Vinz's gun allows him to break up the fight and all the skinheads flee except one (portrayed by Kassovitz himself) who Vinz is about to execute in cold blood. His dream of revenge is thwarted by his reluctance to go through with the deed, and, cleverly goaded by Hubert, he is forced to confront the fact that his true nature is not the heartless gangster he poses as, and he lets the skinhead flee. Early in the morning, the trio return to the banlieue and split up to their separate homes, and Vinz, now wiser, turns the gun over to Hubert, relinquishing his destructive self-image and potentially opening the door to personal growth and a constructive future. However, Vinz and Said once again encounter the same plainclothes policemen, who again brutalize them, while making reference to the incident with the skinheads. Hubert rushes to their aid, but as the policeman holding Vinz taunts him with a loaded gun held to Vinz's head, the gun accidentally goes off, killing Vinz instantly. Hubert and the policeman slowly and deliberately point their guns at each other, and as the film cuts to Said closing his eyes and fades to black, a shot is heard on the soundtrack, with no indication of who fired or who may have been hit. This stand-off is underlined by a voice-over of Hubert's slightly modified opening lines ("It's about a society in free fall..."), underlining the fact that, as the lines say, jusqu'ici tout va bien (so far so good); i.e. all seems to be going relatively well until Vinz is killed, and from there no one knows what will happen, a microcosm of French society's descent through hostility into pointless violence.


Guinea, 2008, La haine

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