La Haine incites provocative hatred within an uncompromising socioeconomic divide. The inevitable rise in impoverished settlements to cater for France's unwanted incline of immigrants was a blistering event that catapulted French governmental bodies across the country in the 90s. The escalating friction between these trapped civilians and policing forces notoriously allowed documentation of blazing riots to take place. Vandalism, bodily harm and even death. Society free-falling into violence that would shake, not just the country, but the world. Kassovitz' monochromatic drama may just very well be the most naturally realistic drama ever put to film. Three young friends, born of differing descents and into immigrant families, struggle adjusting their temperament after a riot the previous day, where one of them yearns to avenge the hospitalisation of his friend.
"Hatred breeds hatred" calmly states Hubert, an Afro-French boxer who lusts for a more fortunate life. "I know who I am and where I'm from!" retorts Vinz, a Jewish immigrant accepting the circumstance that he finds himself in. "Wow. what a speech! Half Moses, half Mickey Mouse.", a young impressionable Saïd jokes. Three seemingly variant individuals that are entangled in a societal decline that would bring them closer than ever. Kassovitz paints a potent portrait of 90s France. Racial discord, neglected housing projects and tainted egalitarianism. However, for this banlieue, it's too late. Its inhabitants respond with violence and cruelty, carrying an anti-policing theme throughout.
Who's to blame for the mindless hostility? The immigrants living in poverty because their fantastical government placed them in a descending trap? Or the police for treating these civilians like scum? Whatever the answer, there is no denying that Kassovitz' vision is an eclectic exemplar of urban cinema. His ability to convey the festering hatred of both sides is breathtakingly effective. A monochromatic palette to represent the repressed opportunities that these families occupy themselves in. The long one take sequences depicting the arduous days that these people live, no wait, survive. The sprawling urban communities resembling colonies for its workers who are unable to seize any opportunity. "The world is yours" read many joyous billboards within Paris.
However, what really elevates Kassovitz' vision, is the naturally realistic characters. These three friends, no matter how serrated their friendships might be, look out for each other. As we follow a mere twenty-four hours of their diminished lives, there are times when the "main plot" meanders. The beauty is, there isn't really a plot. The film is a window into a warped fantasy that is unfortunately becoming a reality. Vinz, Hubert and Saïd will simply have meaningless conversations that provide no narrative flow. But in doing so, it furthers their chemistry and our emotional attachment to their injudicious lives. All building up to that final microcosm that will leave you speechless. Perfectly portrayed by Cassel, Koundé and Taghmaoui, each harnessing a unique personality to differentiate their characters. Physically and emotionally exhuming transformative performances.
Although they power the nail-biting narrative, it's the inclusion of minor scenes that provides a bold outline in Kassovitz' portrait of 90s France. Whether it be Vinz sneaking into various cinema screenings, coincidentally only showing films of excessive violence. Or an unexpected story about God, told by an old man in a public bathroom. Perhaps the neglectful treatment when in police custody. Maybe, that final impending shot. The point is, every scene, action and line of dialogue never felt out of place. Everything was perceived to be real. And you can tell, almost instantly from the first montage of riots, that this was a personal endeavour for Kassovitz, who he himself participated in such events.
Almost exhuming a documentary aesthetic, La Haine is as as real as it gets. Despite a minor reservation on the occasional meandering, this is urban cinema executed to perfection. Controversial in nature, but anodyne in reality. "It's not how you fall that matters. It's how you land."