Reviewed Jun 13, 2012
Upon watching the film, I at once became struck by a nagging sense of familiarity. Upon closer examination, it became obvious that two sources provided this sense of déjà vu. One, was the interaction of the three protagonists amongst themselves, and how it reminded me of people I knew in my own life. Sure, I had not associated myself with potential rioters living in a Parisian ghetto, but the ease of flow in conversation, the cheap and ugly jokes, the seemingly bitter fights and eventual, then quick understandings within the group made their presence in the film and in the city that much more realistic and relatable. With protagonists an audience could identify with immediately, if not always support their sometimes destructive actions, viewing their movements and going-abouts throughout an entire day becomes interesting and engaging.
The second sense of familiarity comes from a slightly unexpected source: The classic Rules of the Game, directed by Jean Renoir. Like it's predecessor, La Haine attempts to scrutinize and present a microcosm of French society to the audience; rather than focusing on a self-indulgent upper-class as Renoir did in the 30s, Kassovitz's lens is aimed strictly at a listless and hopeless generation of the poor, a group of people who feel like they are held back by an unfair system run by dangerous and untrustworthy cops, falling, with no sense of where they will land. It should also be noted that the use of deep focus is present in both films, with both directors wishing to point out and highlight the importance of character interaction in the foreground, as well as the background.
The brilliant nature of the film's beautiful city choreography and camera work should also be mentioned. Demonstrating that beauty within Black-and-White films does not come from simply popping on a pre-made color filter in iMovie, everything about La Haine is meant to compliment the stylization choice, from the position of actors, to the lighting, to props and set design. The set locations feel completely natural, as if the graffiti on the wall had been there for years. The long takes utilized also focused upon the realist nature of the film, demonstrating long winded descriptions about reality shows and conversations about killer punchlines, pieces of dialogue that may seem inconsequential, but add so much more to the film's content and character.
Overall, the film manages to address several important social issues plaguing modern day France, while also delivering a narrative propelled forward by truly well-defined characters. The type whose lives you could imagine taking place before and after the film, characters with their own subtle quirks, monumental dreams, and uncertainty of where their place in the world truly lies.