1995. Directed by Matthieu Kassovitz.
21 years later, La Haine (literally Hate) remains extremely relevant film about relations between law enforcement and the citizens they protect.
The volatile Vinz, thoughtful Hubert, and street savvy Said are a trio of late teenagers who live in the ghettos of northern Paris. The story begins after a night of riots over unrest with police activities. What follows is a day in the irrelevant, chaotic, and sometimes violent lives of these young men as they travel through a dying city looking for any chance at escape.
Kassovitz wrote the screenplay after one of his friends died in police custody as not only a means of catharsis, but as a realistic telling of how both sides of the equation continue to build disdain for each other until lethal confrontation becomes the only possible conclusion. Pierre Aim's black and white cinematography is vice like in its ability to hold the viewer's attention with minimal distraction. The camera moves elegantly between vantage points, showing every possible angle to each interaction, thus contributing to the "all in this together" plea of the film. Each shot of the burning projects is a bruise on Paris' pristine face, exposing the truth of every civilized nation: We still don't know how to be civil with one another. These kids hate the police and the police hate them right back, perpetuating the cycle endlessly until the next shooting or riot.
Vincent Cassel gives a powerhouse performance as Vinz. He's a fed up Jewish kid who has something to prove, going so far as to mimic Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle in his spare time. Meanwhile, Hubert Kounde delivers the most understated performance as the soulful Hubert, a young black man trapped between worlds, striving to improve his situation, but also understanding the gravity of his predicament. Said Taghmaoui's turn is the most complex. Said balances elements from both Vinz and Hubert while also communicating his character's adaptation and acceptance of the world around him. While Vinz wants to burn it down and Hubert wants to escape, the young Arab Said is perhaps the most grounded, making the best of what he has at every moment, sometimes even enjoying it.
The important thing to bare in mind when viewing La Haine is it objectiveness. While minority tension with law enforcement is the focus, it declines to point a finger and takes an extremely mature approach to the subject matter when other more well regarded films chose to take the easy, blame assignation route. Every lonely wide shot, every tense, profanity laced interaction between the young men or between them and the police are presented in an almost anthropological style, chronicling humanity's self destruction from the outside in.
Available now on Huluplus or on Blu Ray via the Criterion Collection, La Haine is a French morality play that could transpire in any city in any country in the world. While it doesn't offer any solutions, it presents the dilemma in a visceral, rip the band aid off approach that will settle in your heart and linger there long after the credits roll.
Highly. Highly. Recommend.