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La Haine a Film of Police Brutality

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La Haine (1995) 24 hours in the lives of three young men in the Paris slums the day after a violent riot. After one finds a police officer’s discarded weapon, their night seems poised to take a deadly turn. As much a realistic portrayal of a divided community as it is a cinematic achievement, La Haine is mandatory viewing. La Haine (The Hate) directed by 28-year-old Mathieu Kassovitz, is an intense look at racial tensions in a Paris housing project. Although poverty, urban decay, drug dealing, and police brutality have been common themes in films before, rarely have they had a sense of passion and urgency as shown in La Haine. The film shows the underbelly of France, which you will not find on a tourist map. Passion, dedication, and effort were well put forward to La Haine. It slaps you in the face with its stark, raw intensity. La Haine convincingly illustrates the harassment that young people from the banlieue, especially nonwhites face. But it also demonstrates the violent gun culture that suffuses their surroundings, with terrible consequences in the film’s shocking finale.

Three friends from different ethnic backgrounds live in the Bluebell housing projects on the outskirts of Paris. A desolate urban landscape, harsh and grim with housing projects, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), is a working-class Jew; Hubert (Hubert Kounde), the intelligent and self-reflective of the three, an African boxer; and Said (Said Taghmaoui), an Arab from North Africa is younger but just as embittered.

Bluntly shot in black and white; La Haine has one of my favorite cinematography works. Kassovitz’s directional style is so eloquent, using Spike Lee like rocketing zooms and smooth swerves to get the full view of the destruction. Popular hip hop music is used and heard throughout the film. While there are so many references to Scorsese that you could almost call it a tribute, including Kassovitz’s take on the famous Taxi Driver scene. This French milestone deals with the disillusioned youth who live in the slums of Paris in such an elegant and honest way. But it’s also a cinematic masterpiece and often hilarious entertainment. Everything works; the musical choices, the brilliant performances by the 3 protagonists, the beautiful cinematography and flawless direction. And, perhaps most of all, the perfect script. The film’s most critical quote is the one it opens and ends with: ‘Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good… so far so good… so far so good. How you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land’. This directly reflects the film’s content, structure, and result. It’s a metaphor for the French government and is punctuated by a ticking clock Kassovitz’s metaphor for the banlieue as a social time bomb. Kassovitz’s brilliance is further highlighted through La Haine’s numerous awards including Best Director (1995 Cannes Film Festival) Mathieu Kassovitz, Best Editing (César Awards) – Mathieu Kassovitz, Best Film (César Awards) – Mathieu Kassovitz, Best Producer (César Awards), Best Young Film (European Film Awards) – Mathieu Kassovitz, Best Foreign Language Film (Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards), Best Director (Lumières Award) – Mathieu Kassovitz, Best Film (Lumières Award) – Mathieu Kassovitz.

Kassovitz started writing the script of La Haine in 1993, the day Makome M’Bowole, a young man from Zaire, was shot while in police custody. He wondered in an interview “how a guy could get up in the morning and die the same evening in this way.” M’Bowole’s officially accidental death is one of the many smudges that have plagued the French police in recent decades. For Kassovitz, however, they were no cause for laughter, as one of his friends, a fellow kid from the projects also died in police custody further drawing inspiration for the screenplay. Again, as I previously stated Kassovitz is able to translate this into his film further enriching La Haine’s brutal honesty.

Unrest in the working-class banlieue was a familiar phenomenon before La Haine. The cites concentrate on social problems: run-down housing, a high concentration of young people from immigrant back­grounds, drugs, and rampant unemployment. Their social deprivation and cultural alienation are echoed in their isolation from the city center. As in the film, they are routinely portrayed in the media as violent, dysfunctional spaces. But La Haine had, in the words of one journalist, “the effect of a bomb,” it was also because its effect seemed to continue to reverberate after it came out. On June 8 and 9, shortly after the release, there were violent riots in the Butte-Verte cité, in Noisy-le-Grand, east of Paris, provoked by yet another death of a young minority, Belkacem Belhabib, who crashed his motorbike while being chased by the police. Coming so soon after La Haine, the Noisy-le-Grand riots were undoubtedly seen as “copycat,” sparking a debate about the responsibility of the film in particular and the media in general for the violence engulfing French society. The daily France-Soir neatly entitled its June 9 story “Noisy-la-Haine,” and the far-right Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen exclaimed: “Do these yobs have La Haine? Send them to jail!” François Dubet, a sociologist renowned for his work on the banlieues, wisely cautioned that “one must not overestimate the role of cinema or television; the banlieue kids did not wait for La Haine to express themselves.” Nevertheless, La Haine had its finger on the pulse of the French public. President Jacques Chirac sent an appreciative letter to Kassovitz, Prime Minister Alain Juppé asked for the film to be screened for government officials, teachers from “difficult” suburbs took their pupils to see it further signaling La Haine’s relevance to French culture.

La Haine, I would go so far as to call it the most relevant French film of the last 20 years. And In my opinion, is the greatest film ever made. A cinematic phenomenon so close to my heart. With each viewing being better than the last. One of the greatest films of the 90s and of all-time; if there was one perfect film; it would be La Haine.                 

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La Haine A Film Of Police Brutality. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
“La Haine A Film Of Police Brutality.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
La Haine A Film Of Police Brutality. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 May 2022].
La Haine A Film Of Police Brutality [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2022 May 17]. Available from:
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