When it comes to French cinema, some of the most obvious references include Amélie, Les Quatre Cents Coups, À Bout de Souffle and La Regle Du Jeu. Written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz (who also happened to star in Amélie), La Haine is one of the most underrated mainstream French movies of all time. 

Ironically, I was introduced to this film by my AP French teacher, Mr. Magrou (shoutout if you’re reading). We had come to that point in our senior year where class was a mere suggestion, but going was sometimes worth your while; this movie was one of those instances. I’m pretty sure class attendance for that week was at an all-time high, which tells you a lot about the flow of La Haine (and about our class). At any of the film’s stopping points, you leave thinking about the movie, unaware that it has already impeded your reality.

At a glance, La Haine follows three friends who live in the low-income banlieues of Paris. Vinz is an eastern European Jew, Hubert has Caribbean roots, and Said is of North African descent. They spend the majority of their days wandering aimlessly in a French suburbia. Over the course of 19 consecutive hours, these friends navigate between their banlieues and a brief trip into Paris. Although released in 1995, Kassovitz uses black-and-white cinematography to emphasize a constant tension throughout the film, as well as to paint a picture of poverty that is anything but glamorous. The dynamics of the multi-ethnic friendship between Vinz, Hubert, and Said range between angry, thoughtful, and brash. It seems that the film builds up to various boiling points, and at any point, whether triggered by the abuse of a cop, or a fight that breaks out, there is an inevitability that something must eventually explode.

La Haine not only illuminates the subtle, boiling anger towards the treatment of marginalized populations as a reflection of the self, but also the violence that must be endured as a cornerstone of the boys’ realities. The film is as devastating as it is stylistic. It is a work of political and pop culture; in one of the first scenes, Vinz looks at himself in the mirror and imitates a film character who has also always lived in the shadows, Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle.

The timelessness of this film makes it a must-see. Although it characterizes a France plagued by acts of terrorism and fear, themes of oppression and structural power dynamics still ring true. As Hubert tells Vince, “La haine attire la haine!" Hate breeds hate.

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