Written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz and first released in 1995, La Haine (‘Hate’) spends a day in the life of this almost clueless trio, learning about life in Chanteloup-les-Vignes, a 40 minute rail ride north west from the centre of Paris. The kind of young guys who don’t own up to their farts, pull the ‘your mother’ or ‘your sister’ card to escalate an argument, and can barely hotwire a car never mind drive one. Vinz might be carrying a gun, but would be really ever pull the trigger?
When the film was released in 1995, The Independent reported that the then French Prime Minister Alain Juppe organised a special screening for the cabinet: attendance was mandatory. I wonder was there facilitated discussion afterwards led by residents of the area, or was there just loud tutting and the empty silence of a penny failing to drop?
The French equivalent of Del Boy (nicknamed ‘Walmart’) lives in a high rise flat full of boxed up electronic goods he can no longer sell after his wheels were torched. At times, there’s almost a comical Trainspotting-esque note to the dialogue. Banal asides and lengthy anecdotes punctuate the group’s constant movement. They generate ‘so what?’ responses from the on-screen characters and the cinema audiences, underscoring the futility of the situation.
Twenty-five years on, the anniversary re-release of La Haine stands up to the test of time. It’s visually clever, with a use of slang that must have delighted the subtitlers. Les Misérables is still being screened for another couple of days (until Thursday 17 September) in Queen’s Film Theatre. It’s a like a modern sequel to La Haine, in colour with far more anger, and a lot more focus on the behaviour of the police. Both films peek under the lid of the pressure cooker of community tensions, poor housing, joblessness and disrespect and ask where the power lies, and from where the solution will come.
La Haine finishes its run in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Thursday 24 September. If you enjoyed this review, why not buy me a tea ...