The World is Ours”: La Haine and the
Mathieu Kassovitz‟s film shows a France that most Americans would not expect, given that most
associations with French films in Parisian settings are more along the lines of cutesy
Amelie(which Kassovitz costarred in) than a gritty film that exposes the dark underside of the
projects of Paris. La Haine is a film that shows a France plagued by gangs and police brutality.
Kassovitz, who grew up in Paris, makes several interesting choices that make this film a
commentary on life in the projects, and a commentary on French society.
The thesis of this film seems to be the anecdote that is repeated at the beginning and the end; the
story is told about a man who is falling from a skyscraper; every time he passes a floor he says to
himself, “so far so good.” “But it‟s not how you fall that matters; it‟s how you land.” At the end,
however, they say that “society” is falling, fooling itself into thinking everything is fine as it moves
towards its own destruction.
00:01:05 A graphic match between this shot and the following burning car present the theme of
the destruction of society.
As the film progresses, the motif of the globe is repeated through the use of a billboard that has a
shot of the globe with the caption “The World Is Yours.” We first see the billboard as Hubert
looks out the window of the train, after Vinz has pulled the gun on a cop. As Hubert looks at the
billboard, we get the feeling that he is frustrated by the emptiness of its words, as he listens to
Vinz brag about their confrontation with the police. There is then a close up of his face as he is
suddenly fed up with the game that they are all playing, pretending that they will all be fine when
they are stuck in an endless loop of violence. The billboard shows up again towards the end, as
the 3 boys wander the city, but Said changes it to “The World Is Ours.” This shows Said‟s attitude
in stark contrast with Hubert‟s. While Hubert has made efforts to make an honest living and is
now resigned to his life in the projects without prospects, Said still possesses a youthful naivete,
as he is shown throughout the film cracking jokes, stealing, and spraying graffiti. He genuinely
believes that the world belongs to the 3 boys, that they are living the good life.
I‟d like to return to the close up on Hubert during their train ride. I noticed that there was a
similar shot of all 3 boys at different points in the film. I think that Kassovitz uses these close ups
to communicate each boy‟s moment of realization. For Hubert, he is realizing that his world is
slowly collapsing. There is a close up of Vinz as he bears witness to a man shooting a bouncer
who refused to let him in; for him, this moment represents the realization of what shooting and
killing someone truly means. Because despite his parading in front of his mirror Taxi Driverstyle and his boasts of wanting to do time in prison, Vinz is not as tough as he would like his
friends to think. Lastly, there is a close up of Said as he watches Hubert and the plainclothes
policeman poised to shoot each other. Said has kept his naive outlook on life up until this point;
during his close up he realizes the gravity of the life they are living, the consequences of gangs
and weapons and drug money.
For me, this film was two-sided. First, it showed the personal journeys of Said, Hubert, and
Vinz. Second, it showcased the daily life of the projects and the stark class divide in Paris.
An example that comes to mind is the use of the song “Burnin‟ and Lootin‟” by Bob Marley.
The song is playing during the beginning montage of police riot footage, and it is still in the
background in the image below, as Said sees the policemen, menacingly lined up waiting for
an excuse to arrest somebody. It is repeated yet again as Said confronts Snoopy (around
minute 21) and there is a poster of Bob Marley in Snoopy‟s apartment. The lyrics of the song
reflect the adversity faced by the main characters.
How many rivers do we have to cross,
Before we can talk to the boss?
All that we got, it seems we have lost;
We must have really paid the
Burnin‟ and a-lootin‟ tonight;
Burnin‟ and a-lootin‟ tonight;
Burnin‟ all pollution tonight;
Burnin‟ all illusion tonight.
The last screenshot pictured below right was another shot that highlighted the divide
between the inhabitants of the projects and the policeman tasked with protecting them. As
Hubert and Vinz wait in the lobby of the police station, the camera pana around them,
showing all of the policemen staring at them suspiciously as they pass until we see the
policemen standing in front of them, with the graffiti evidence of a recent raid on the station
behind them on the wall. During this shot, a sense of urgency and paranoia is created by the
escalating rings of police telephones.
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3 Responses to “The World is Ours”:
La Haine and the New France
April 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm
I agree with your analysis of the themes present in La Haine. Particularly poignant was
the billboard shot where Said changes “the world is yours” to “the world is ours” through
a small amount of spray paint. The boys in La Haine are in a very precarious position in
society; it seems as though France would rather see all of these young men locked up or
killed by police. The film details this struggle between the boys and the police, but Said‟s
actions sum up his views on the world. He does not want too much for himself, but
merely to share it with everyone.
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April 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm
I definitely agree with your point about the boys‟ different outlook on life as reflected by
their close ups. These close ups show the boys‟ reactions to different situations, usually
violence, and while the three young men pretend to have such aggressive and tough
personalities, these close-ups allow the audience to see that sometimes violence
frightens them, highlighting their weaknesses.
I also thought that the cinematography of the two posters with the world on them was
very interesting. More towards the beginning of the film, the boys see the billboard
saying “THE WORLD IS YOURS”, and the billboard is seen again at the end of the night,
as the boys are heading back. As Said changes the words to read “THE WORLD IS
OURS”, it symbolizes that the three friends have, in a way, conquered the world that
night. This repetition of the image brings the plot full-circle for the audience, as the 24hour period comes to a close, just to begin all over again.
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April 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm
This is a great analysis of La Haine that covers all of the complex thematic elements of
the movie. I like your incorporation of the eyes-shut scenes of Said and Hubert, which
really represented to me the futile attempts of this teenagers in the projects to get away
from the tragedy and violence that consumes them. It is also interesting how Said begins
and ends the movie with his eyes shut, yet while they are open he seems to carry on the
illusion that he is happy with his role in the slums and gives no indications of wanting to
get out. Hubert‟s closed-eye moment occurs at a time where he is confused about his
future, in which he sees a sign reading “the world is yours”. This scene highlights the fact
that Hubert wants to leave the oppression of the projects and be a new person, but
seems to lack the power to do so.
Transitioning from Non-Diegetic to
Diegetic Sound in La Haine
Diegetic sounds in film occur within the context of the film and can be heard by the characters.
For example, a song playing from a record player in a room would be a diegetic sound, whereas
background music that only the audience can hear would be non-diegetic. The introduction to La
Haine features a non-diegetic song played as a soundtrack and cuts to Saïd standing across from
police in riot gear as the same song plays in the distance as a diegetic sound. The initial nondiegetic music provides the viewer with the context in which the film takes place and helps to set
expectations for the film; the transition to a diegetic version of the same song pulls the viewer
into the actual plot seamlessly.
The introduction to La Haine features brutal images of rioting and police brutality set to “Burnin‟
and Lootin” by Bob Marley. During the news camera footage of the riots, the song is inherently
non-diegetic because none of the characters on screen can hear or interact with the music. The
choice to use this song is interesting because its feel is anything but violent, yet the lyrics „we‟ll be
burning and looting tonight‟ are certainly appropriate. This background music helps to create
setting for the film because the violence in the videos is juxtaposed against a song with a very
relaxed feel (yet the song itself has a violent tone as well). La Haine is a slow-moving film with a
great deal of violence; a reggae song with lyrics depicting violence parallels the entire feel of the
The transition to diegetic music occurs as soon as the opening credits finish rolling and Saïd
opens his eyes across from several police officers. Marley‟s song can still be heard, yet the music
sounds as though it is drifting through the air from afar. As soon as the music becomes part of the
surrounding atmosphere in which Saïd stands, it becomes diegetic. Saïd and the police officers
across the street can hear the song bouncing off the concrete buildings in the banlieue, unlike the
rioters in the opening sequence.
Kassovitz‟ choice to transition from non-diegetic to diegetic music offers the viewer a neutral,
removed look at violence in the balieue which then changes to a much more intimate study of the
three teenagers involved. The director drops the viewer directly into Saïd‟s world, which is
comprised of the same streets on which the rioters clashed with the police in the film‟s
introduction. Because the song remains the same between these two sections, the viewer is
subconsciously reminded of the violence presented just before. Also, the continuation “Burnin‟
and Lootin‟” into the actual story sets up the reasonable expectation that Saïd and his friends will
find themselves in violent situations similar to those previously depicted alongside the nondiegetic version of the song.
The use of the non-diegetic music creates a distinction between the audience and the characters,
as the characters are completely unaware of it. Kassovitz uses the transition to diegetic music as a
way to make the viewer much more involved with the film and foreshadow some of the film‟s key
4 Responses to Transitioning from NonDiegetic to Diegetic Sound in La Haine
April 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm
I thought that your post was really interesting. Typically when the audience watches a movie we
do not think always about the music and how much of a role it plays with different changes.
These changes are different for every case. It can be used as a mood enhancer or it can be used
like you mentioned above as a transition. I thought that you made a great point with Bob Marley‟s
song “Burnin‟ and Lootin‟”. I agree that the music did not really go with what was happening, but
the lyrics fit the situation perfectly. I think it would be interesting to go back and re-watch some
of the movies and see how music changes a scene.
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June 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm
I found that the song lyrics to Bob Marley‟s “Burnin‟ and Lootin‟” were perfect for the
introduction to La Haine both in their context and mood. As the song begins setting up the
context in which rioting is likely to take place (e.g. the first stanza of the song), the audience
sees a montage of police officers affixing riot gear to their vehicles, preparing for the riot that
occurs once peaceful protest is abandoned. In this way Kassovitz forces the audience to not only
become more involved in thinking about his film (by choosing a classic song many people
enjoy), but he also forces the audience to really listen to the lyrics of the song, forcing the
audience to hear the subtleties of narrative within Bob Marley‟s songwriting. As the chorus
changes from “burnin‟ and lootin‟” to “weapin‟ and a walin‟ tonight,” Kassovitz zooms in on a
protest sign reading (in english) “do not forget the police kill mogador-stmichel same crime
same bastards.” The sign, whose aim in eliciting distrust towards police is obviously well put,
also highlights what is, (in my opinion), the aim of Marley‟s song and the purpose of the film La
Haine. Which is to burn away or destroy the illusions that A, all individuals (namely those in
ghettos) are treated equally by police, and more importantly B, that violent means such as
rioting are an effective way in which people can achieve change. The only thing that the teens in
La Haine accomplish is even more death and destruction than was present at the onset of the
film. Thus Marley‟s song, specifically the words “burnin‟ all illusion tonight” correspond
perfectly to La Haine, specifically the opening (and closing) words of the film which highlight
that it is not the journey, but the result that matter in the end.
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April 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm
I definitely agree with your analysis. I really liked the director‟s choice to use “Burnin and Lootin”
because its lyrics reflect the themes of the movie; for example, in the chorus he sings that they are
“burning all illusion tonight.” I really connected with that line because the montage shown at the
beginning shows how the inhabitants of the projects have lost all trust in those who are supposed
to protect them, and the disillusioned youth are now channeling that into aggression. I also
noticed that the director includes a nod to Bob Marley at one additional point in the movie – this
songs is playing on Snoopy‟s stereo when they go to collect Said‟s money, and the camera flashes
upon a poster of Marley. It‟s apparent that Kassovitz really connected with this song!
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April 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm
Utilization of music in movies is often an under-appreciated but noteworthy element.
Particularly, through transitioning from diegetic to non-diegetic sounds the director can involve
the viewer in the scene. The music on stage presents the character‟s investment in the music, and
as the sound transitions to off-the-screen, the viewer realizes that he is also immersed in the
music and consequently the scene. Music has been something that evokes emotions and truly
reaches people since its conception, so by choosing effective ways to implement effective music,
filmmakers can thoroughly plunge the viewer into their movies.