La Haine The Art Of Meaninglessness, Social Criticism And Impartiality
My grade for the movie: 9.8/10
The 90s in France started in a somewhat disordered way. Tensions rose as the economy was on the verge of collapse, social issues such as racism and xenophobia were peaking, unemployment was increasing and the country was becoming more and more unequal. Massive riots were striking all around the country, mostly in Paris, and hope was the last thing going through the youths’ minds of that time. This is the setting that we are placed in the movie La Haine.
La Haine is a response to this troubling situation the country faced, offering the perspective of 3 young boys living on the outskirts of Paris.
The movie starts by shocking the audience; while Burnin 'And Lootin by Bob Marley and The Wailers plays in the background, images and videos of violent riots are exhibited from the perspective of the media: cars and buildings being destroyed and burned, gunshots, clouds of tear gas, theft, vandalism and most importantly, how the police were handling the situation.
Eventually, we are presented with the main event which the plot of the movie is based on: the death of the 16-year-old Zairean, Makome M'bowole (true story). The young immigrant was one of the many rioters that suffered police brutality, but unfortunately, he was not a survivor of such events. Makome was shot dead by a police officer after being involved in a riot in April of 1993, upsetting rioters even more.
The 3 young boys, deeply frustrated and angered by the miserable and repressed situation they live in, as well as what happened to Makome, wander around the outskirts of Paris searching for something to spend their time with. This sort of goalless life taken by them is one of the main themes touched by the movie and their characters, the meaninglessness of everything. The director, Mathieu Kassovitz, manages to explore this theme in an incredible and subtle way, mainly through the character Vinz. Throughout the movie, Vinz is presented as a simple and straightforward person, reacting reciprocally to every action taken against him, if he is hit, he hits back, if he is dissed, he curses back, etc. Thus, the character never tries to understand the deeper meaning of what he experiences, believing that doing so is way too complicated. It can even be interpreted that the movie being black and white might refer to the way Vinz views the world around him.
The situation they live in is also heavily influenceable to why Vinz views life this way. Since he has nothing for himself to care about, proportionally, he has also nothing to lose, so… “why should I care?” This thought process leads him to act inconsequently, constantly putting him and his friends in danger, committing crimes, and as a result, causing his death. There is even a scene where a kid is telling what happened at a riot to Vinz, who is visually bored but still silently listening; the kid goes on and on rambling about what he saw on the riot and how there were fires, gunshots and theft. The kid then finishes the story, there is a short silence and Vinz says “That's it?”. This nihilistic view of the world Vinz has eventually influenced the other characters to act the same way.
Undeniably, the beauty of the movie lies in its extreme realism. There is no such thing as “good guys”, “heroes”, “bad guys” or “winners or losers”. Certainly, the relevance of such titles for the characters depends on the perspective the viewer takes from their attitudes, but it is impressive to experience how, as the movie goes on, these titles become more and more irrelevant as the characters’ flaws, weaknesses, and reasons are exposed. Reality is presented and the audience intakes the information the way their opinions, views, and morals are inclined to, but again, the relevance of taking such a side- either the cops or the young boys- is questionable. This doubting answer unresolved by the movie takes the viewer out of his comfort zone, in some way exposing himself to his own flaws and morals. Again, we can trace back to the meaningless of these contrasts and side-picking, and placing ourselves in the young boys perspective: “cops are evil” or in the cops' perspective: “poor young boys are criminals” leads to a simple conclusion that, when dehumanised in such a way, these both sides share one trait: the hatred (La Haine).