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Themes in La Haine 
La Haine deals with various themes relating to citizenship in France - poverty, the treatment 
of ethn...
decent police officers face when trying to do their job. How do they build good community 
relations with people who don't...
Themes in La Haine 
The film La Haine is set in the aftermath of the 90s Paris riots over the space of a 24 hour 
period, ...
Conflict is also shown by the constant use of “face off” shots between characters, these are 
used between Vinz and Hubert...
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La Haine themes


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La Haine themes

  1. 1. Themes in La Haine La Haine deals with various themes relating to citizenship in France - poverty, the treatment of ethnic minority groups, racism, crime, the relationship between young people and the police, anti-social behaviour, drugs and the status of women in La Banlieue. I will be exploring the responses to life in La Banlieue of the 3 main characters and raising questions about the prospects for change in estates such as the one portrayed in La Haine. The 3 characters, Hubert, Said and Vinz, portray 3 different responses to life in the Banlieue, which serve to remind us of the complex issues and difficult choices that people have to make everyday. For instance, Hubert is a reformed character who is desperate to escape the Banlieue. However, he deals drugs and buys stolen goods to support his pregnant mother and sister. We learn also that he has a brother in jail. The choices he makes are rational and force us to shift our own ideas about morality with regard to La Banlieue. In addition, the burning down of Hubert's gym by rioters, leaves us with a sense of despair and a society imploding; it's inhabitants dealing with obstacles from within and without. Hubert's character also appears to have a sense of impending tragedy and the deeper implications of what life in the Banlieue signifies. The numerous references to the future belonging to them, creates a sense of unease in Hubert and in addition, he tells Vinz the proverb about the falling man. This to me is at the crux of the film's message - you cannot sit by and watch society falling, as it is bound to end in destruction and disaster, which it does for both Hubert and Vinz, the two characters who in their own and different ways are trying to enact change. Hubert's conflict with Vinz portrays two juxtaposing views. Vinz is the angry young man who, unlike Hubert and Said, participates in the riots and hates the police. He has no respect for adults or authority figures he encounters, aside from his Granma. We can gain insights into the psyche of young people from Vinz. He is driven by hate and is reminded here this will lead him by Hubert - "hate breeds Hate". Vinz is the character who appears to be susceptible to the anti-social elements around him. He is obsessed with gaining status and respect in the La Banlieue, which is at the centre of his aims. He has no sense, unlike Hubert, of the bigger picture and we see how his views and actions are senseless and short sighted. However, we see, that in one day, Vinz's views are fundamentally altered and that underneath his anger and apparent aggression he is still shocked by violence, when confronted by the shooting of the nightclub bouncer. After this episode, we seperate Vinz from the character who shot the bouncer, whose actions were callous and brutal. Said represents a third response. He appears to accept life in La Banlieue and is the only character that seems happy, or anaesthetised. He has no intention of participating in the riots, but isn't affected by it either and, unlike Hubert, takes no moral standpoint. Even after his treatment at the hands of the police, Said continues with his banal conversations and observations. However, like the other characters, he is caught up in poverty, drugs and has no prospects. Is Said's response the correct one or necessity for survival in La Banlieue. He also seems to be in the role of witness to the events occuring around him. At one point in the film, he wants to participate in the conflict with the police on the roof top, but is stopped by his brother who is an authority figure. In fact, he is the only male role model present within the families of the three main characters. Is this the reason, we ask, why he does not take part in the riots or manages to stay out of harm’s way. What does this say about society's where male role models are in scarce supply. The only other positive role model is the police officer who is sympathetic to the situation in La Banlieue and shows respect to the teenagers, trying to help them when he can. However, he also serves to show us the obstacles that
  2. 2. decent police officers face when trying to do their job. How do they build good community relations with people who don't want them? The portrayal of the police is negative for the most part. However, the young officer at the hospital tries to be polite to the teenagers and is faced with aggression and irrational behaviour. This makes it difficult for us to empathise with them, even though they want to see their friend. They are unwilling to engage in dialogue, or don't have the tools to communicate constructively. The police in Paris are exposed to be hypocrites. They have an appearance of respectability, but behind closed doors they treat Hubert and Said badly, witnessed by another officer who mirrors our contempt and disgust at their appalling behaviour. We also feel his shame that he does nothing, when the officers leave the room and Hubert and Said stare accusingly at him. Even though the 90% of the characters portrayed are men, women and their role forms an important part of the text, women are not seen outside in the La Banlieue, but are at the centre of home life. The young men in the film objectify women and are unable to treat them with respect, as shown in the gallery scene, where the 3 teenagers are unable to hold a conversation with two women who confront them about their disrespectful attitude. Finally, the film comments on everyday life in the Banlieue. The landscape is almost barren and the flats appear to close in on the inhabitants, giving us a sense of oppression and claustrophobia. This is compounded by our insights into their cramped living conditions. In addition, we don't see many of the characters going to work, or occupying their time constructively, apart from Hubert's sister and the 'fence' who views his occupation as legitimate work. The apparently meaningless conversations cement the general atmosphere of boredom and it's links to anti-social behaviour and crime. The police's raids are unnecessary and seem to liken the banlieue to a prison, heightening a sense of 'us' and 'them'. This also bears out in the scene where the news crew want to interview the teenagers from the van. Hubert observes that they are not in a zoo, which is how the media we seem to learn, treats people in La Banlieue. What should the role of the media be then? Not to reinforce stereotypes clearly, but to search for truth - not everyone in the banlieue can be put into a box and packaged for the media and the rest of society. Like all of us, they are complex individuals who try their best to deal with the pressures that life throws at them. Sometimes, we make good decisions, sometimes we are happy to accept our lives and the situations we find ourselves in and sometimes we will not accept things the way they are and fight for change.
  3. 3. Themes in La Haine The film La Haine is set in the aftermath of the 90s Paris riots over the space of a 24 hour period, and creates a distinctive urban feel through the use of black and white as well as many of its other film techniques. These techniques are used to make the audience consider the central themes and help shape our attitude towards them Often these themes are underlying and are not clearly stated to the audience. This film does not offer a solution to the troubling themes it represents. It is more concerned with highlight the troubles in French society that are most often not address in French film. In many sequences varying depths of field are used to show different things. When the characters are in their home surroundings most of the shots are in wide depth of field in order to show that they are at one with their surroundings and feel comfortable. It also serves to show us a clear view of life in the slums. The conditions are crowded and bleak. However as soon as they reach Paris there are many more shots using shallow focus to show that they are out of place and don’t belong there. This is enforced by the use of a zoom reverse dolly shot in the first shot of the three main characters in Paris, it shows a clear divide between the cultures of Paris between the city and the surrounding districts as it is a very obvious effect which is used to disorientate the audience and make them aware of the changes in surroundings. This use of cinematography clearly highlights the divide in French culture. It reinforces the notion/theme of ‘us vs them’ that the three characters feel. I originally found it difficult to imagine that there could be a clear separation between Parisians from the city to those from the urban areas around, however due to the use of these film techniques it became clear that it was more than just a small problem in this society. The wide depth of field used in the characters home area could be said to be used to show the power that they hold over their own surroundings and that their future will always be set out there contrasting to in the city where they obviously don’t belong and so cannot see further into the future in the city. They have no control in the city and are prevented from gaining any so they will never be able to cross this social divide. There are a multiple number of instances where handheld camera work is used throughout the film, not only in the urban area but in the city of Paris. For instance, it is used to track the three main characters as they walk out of the police station along with the “Notre Dame” officer. The use of the handheld tracking shot here gives us a sense of realism due to its technique as well as offering the opportunity for the audience to experience the shot as if they are there with them; this is reinforced by the use of tracking of the characters. We are made to side with the characters and feel their discomfort, which further highlights the isolation and divided nature of French society. Although the framing of shots is important in any film production, it seems to be of key importance to Matheiu Kassovltz when directing La Haine. He has used it significantly as a way of highlighting the underlying themes of the film. For instance throughout the film whenever there is a gun in the scene, it is shown in the centre of the frame surrounded by other characters this show just how important the gun is to the characters and how their life surrounds it and its uses; showing the conflict held by the characters. Conflict is a key theme in this film. It exist not just between the police (who have guns) but also between characters (they disagree over the gun and what to do with it,. Vinz also believes that they gun will allow him to fight back.
  4. 4. Conflict is also shown by the constant use of “face off” shots between characters, these are used between Vinz and Hubert as well as between these characters and the police, although it shows the conflict between these characters it also shows how even though they disagree with the government they aren’t fighting the right people because they do not have the right knowledge and skill set, so they are fighting each other. Another theme which is highlighted by the use of framing is power, the sense of power each of the characters holds shifts as the film and its narrative (as little as it may be) develops. This is due to how each of the characters are framed and shown in the centre of the frame between the other two at particular points,: at the beginning of the film Vinz is in the centre of the two other characters showing how he holds the power over the group mainly due to his confidence and ego, however this shifts soon after when Siad’s brother steps up and confronts the police. From this point onwards it is Siad out of the three characters who is in the middle. This could be due to Vinz’s ego having been belittled by Siads brother; however it also shows another key theme within La Haine “Fraternity”, one of the words from the French motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Siad is shown as the symbol of fraternity (meaning brotherhood) between the characters. He is the only one of the three main characters who has an older male influence in his life, and although he seems to resent that in the film the use of Siad being shown in the middle of the frame, and constantly being the one bringing the two others back together shows that he has learnt something. It is impressive how subtle use of these micro elements can influence the audience and have such am impact on the way we interpret the theme. As a whole, the varied use of film techniques has a huge impact on how certain people see the film and its themes however I am uncertain as to whether, someone not studying the film or with little knowledge of filmic techniques would be able to decipher those in question. It could be said that the film techniques used creates little impact to a wide audience with a certain few there to appreciate them. Although if I hold the impression that the majority of the audience understands the use of these techniques, even if only in these circumstances, then I do believe that the use of these particular film techniques, as well as others I have not discussed (including editing and close up shots) add to the impact that the film has on an audience, as well as myself. The themes explored in this film are very meaning and in some cases even severe. It could be said that the impact that the film has solely comes from the exploration of such important themes within the society and these have been effectively communicated via the micro elements.