Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - La haine
La Haine was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995 to great critical acclaim.
Matthew Kassovitz was awarded Best Director and five times as many copies of the film
were produced as would normally have been the case, as people flocked to the cinema to
see it in their thousands. And yet the film is shot in black and white on an ugly housing
estate in Paris with a cast of unknown (as was) actors. In addition, the subject matter of the
film was not exactly entertainment – a day in the life of three unemployed youths building
anger and resentment as they wait for their friend to die.
Despite all this, audiences loved it and ten years later a special anniversary edition has
been released at the cinema.
■ Which of the following words or phrases would you use to describe La Haine?
bleak pessimistic exciting
action-packed real tense
hopeless menacing heroic
sexist enjoyable innovative
■ For each word chosen, try to explain your reasoning.
■ What others can you add to your list?
■ Did you enjoy the film? Would you see it again?
■ Why do you think La Haine has been so successful?
■ Do you think that different international audiences would view it differently?
Heroes or Villains?
The film tells the story of three young men who live on the estate, Vinz, Hubert and
Said. The three men all share the same environment and experience the same events
but bring different perspectives to bear on their common situation. Vinz is the character
who is central to most of the action and comes across as the stereotypical ‘angry young
man’. He rarely stops to think about what he is doing or saying, and ploughs straight
in, often inflaming and infuriating the situation, with disastrous consequences. Hubert
is more of an observer, calming the other two when passions rise. He seems older and
more sensitive to people and events and acts as the peacemaker. Said is again, like
Vinz, quick to respond, but appears to be less motivated by hate and more by what he
sees as self-respect. His aggression is less damaging and at times, more humorous.
■ Which of the characters do you like, and why?
■ Which do you dislike, and why?
■ Which of the three characters do you identify with, if any? In what ways?
■ The central character in a film is often the hero. Do you see Vinz as a hero? Would
you call him an anti-hero?
■ What villains do you see in the film? Could you class any of the three central
characters as a villain, and why?
■ Does the film have a message? If so, what is it? How is this conveyed through the
Most of the characters we see in the film are young men under the age of twenty-five.
We see very few older people, very few women and very few families, yet presumably
all these groups must also live on the estate. By focusing almost exclusively on the
lives of Vinz, Hubert and Said, the filmmaker is presenting us with a certain
perspective; he is choosing to represent life there as seen only through their eyes. The
negativity and aggression they encounter is undoubtedly part of daily life on the estate
but may not be the whole story. n Think about what we see of the families and home
life of Vinz and Said. What other family members do we see, what do we see them
doing or saying and how do Vinz and Said react to them?
■ What women do we see? What do we see them wearing and how do they act? What
impression are we given of them?
■ How do each of the three characters, Vinz, Said and Hubert react to them? Does the
inclusion of these women allow us to see a different side to the men’s characters?
Is this sustained in any way?
Representation of Youth
We often assume that ‘youth’ as a group only came into being in the years following
the Second World War. It is certainly the case that this group in society became more
‘visible’ at this time, due to a number of social and cultural factors including the rise of
the media and reportage of ‘youth’ as a group. However, the reality is that as each
generation has aged, the thoughts and behaviour of the young that take their place has
been seen as ‘different’ and a threat to the existing social order. Documents recording
the behaviour of Tudor apprentices indicate that these perceptions of youth have been
around since the beginning of the fifteenth century. As we follow Vinz, Said and Hubert
through their daily life we are presented with a very definite perspective of youth culture
through what we are, and are not, shown.
■ With a partner, make a list of all the activities we see the three characters involved
in. Now re-arrange your list to place the most frequently seen activities at the top,
down to the least–frequent at the bottom. What impression are we given of youth?
■ What positive activities do we see the boys involved in?
■ What activities might have taken place throughout the day that we do not see?
■ Why do you think the filmmaker chose to represent youth in this way? How do you
feel about this?
■ What older people do we encounter? How would you describe them? What are the
boys’ reactions to them? What do the older characters bring to the film?
■ What other films have you seen with similar representations of youth?
■ Who do you think are the audiences for these films?
■ What commercial advantages are there to representing youth in this way?
■ Make a collection of images of youth in film using the internet as a source.
Categorise and display your collection. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the
rest of your group.
■ How do you feel about representation of youth as a whole by the media?
Representation of the Police
Filmmaker Matthew Kassovitz stated ‘La Haine is an anti-police film and that is how I
meant it to be understood.’ Indeed, when it was premiered at Cannes, the police on
security duty there turned their back on the cast and crew of the film. Kassovitz’
portrayal of the French police leaves no doubt as to how he sees them and their role
in the violence in La Haine.
■ What part do the police play in the overall narrative of the film?
■ Think about the scene where Said and Hubert are held by the police:
■ What can you say about the appearance of the police?
■ What props do we see that help build up our picture of these police?
■ What is the recurring point that the officer makes to his colleague? Describe the
manner in which he behaves whilst making it.
■ What is the effect of having an onlooker at the scene?
■ Do you think films like La Haine, which portrays the police in a negative light, should
be screened to the general public? Why or why not?
Building the Tension
Throughout La Haine the tension builds and builds until it explodes in the final scene
of the film. There is a kind of inevitability about the violence, taking into account the
inactive boredom of life on the estate, the volatile nature of two of the three main
characters and the presence of catalysts such as guns and drugs. We, as an audience,
are fully aware that it is only a matter of time before the situation is no longer tenable
and a tragedy occurs. The question is only a matter of how and when.
■ Tension is present right from the very beginning of the film as we wait for news of
Abdel’s condition. How does the fact that the action is set across one day only add
■ How does the constant referral back to the clock add to the tension and what
happens to this throughout the day?
■ What is the reason for having Vinz fire an imaginary gun several times in the film?
■ The final violence at the end is preceded by incidents of lesser violence. How do
these affect our perception of events?
■ As any good scriptwriter knows, it is impossible to maintain tension for long periods
without breaking from time to time for episodes of light relief. Where can these
episodes be seen in La Haine?
■ Would you call the ending of La Haine a ‘tragedy’?
b) Film Language
It is not only the narrative itself that is responsible for building certain expectations
throughout the film. The way in which events are relayed through both sound and vision
all contribute, helping to create an atmosphere of uncontrollable tension that leaves us
both shocked and yet strangely relieved by the ending. The camera plays an important
role by keeping us close into the action; when arguments are taking place we often see
only the heads of those who are in conflict filling the screen and we feel physically
‘pushed up’ against the action. Likewise, the way in which the camera circles around
the action when tension is in the air leaves us a little uneasy – we’re not sure where it
will stop and therefore leave us, the audience, in the action. The circling also has the
effect of trapping the conflict in a small space, thus making the whole episode far more
claustrophobic and explosive.
■ Look again at the scene in the burnt-out gym where Said is arguing with his friend
and watch the position and movement of the camera in this scene.
■ Now try to find other instances where the camera is behaving in the same way.
■ The film is shot in black and white on a very grainy film stock. What effect does this
have on how we view what we interpret on screen?
■ On occasion the filmmaker presents events on screen in slow motion. What are
these events and what effect does this have?
La Haine has been compared to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. What similarities and
differences can you find?
Author: Anita Abbott
©Film Education 2006