First things first… After watching this film, I immediately knew I had seen a modern classic.
For critics, this story is written off as an overly stylish period piece constructed within the mid-90’s Hip hop culture of the French lower class. However, the story of multiracial friendships on the brink of collapse, bounded only by a hatred of a system (represented by police) is timeless.
This movie follows the lives of three ethnically diverse young men (one of African decent, one Jewish, and one Arabic) and their trails while growing up in the French Suburban Projects. Later in the film, we see these characters out side of their home “turf” and their attempt to find their way back home through the streets of Paris (which they are visiting for the first time).
La Haine is part Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and part Walter Hill’s “The Warriors.” In the first half of the film, director Mathieu Kassovitz takes visual and storytelling cues from director Spike Lee. I must admit, at times the visuals were more impressive than the actual story in the first half, but this was necessary to keep the viewers attention as he lays down the environment in which the three main characters grow in.
While viewing the second part of the film, we see the three main characters lost in the streets of Paris. I instantly realized I was watching a modernized version of “The Warriors.” With this in mind, I must proclaim I have a bias; “The Warriors” is one of my favorite films. However, copying this film is not necessarily a key to success. Larry Clark’s “Wassup Rockers” is proof to this claim. What makes this film successful is the believable characters and their love/ hate relationship with each other. Furthermore, this film is brutally honest. The director provides the harsh and unglamorous truth. At times it is easy to be unsympathetic to the characters and other times you feel apart of the team. He does not paint these characters in a romantic way as in many “ghetto movies” but he shows the hate inside them which they mirror in others around them.
This film is a very personal film for me. I see myself in this film. I spent my final years of high school in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, Ga. I am of African-Native American- Spanish Decent and my two best friends were Persian and a Caucasian kid. Although we grew up far from the projects, we also grew up far away from the multi million dollar homes many of our peers grew up in. We lived in apartments and town homes. Throughout high school, I felt I could not fit into the culture surrounding me and I latched unto traditional Hip Hop culture with my friends. I was mesmerized by the Breakdancing, Graffiti, Rhymes, and Turntables, similar to the characters in the film. My friends and I shared a lot of the same feelings (although not as extreme) about the “system” as the characters. This film provided me with an introspective of my teenage years in juxtaposition with the Mid 90’s French Society.