La Haine (1995) – new 4K restoration

Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine remastered remains a ticking bomb, full of seething energy ready to explode.

1995 and 2020

by Olivia Neilson

La Haine

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

La Haine remastered remains a ticking bomb, full of seething energy ready to explode. It’s just as timely and fresh as when it was released 25 years ago, and is even more relevant with all of the accounts of police brutality that have given ammunition to world-wide Black Lives Matter protests.

Set during the riots in the outskirts of Paris in the ’90s, La Haine is a day in the life of three second-generation immigrant friends living in a housing project in the suburbs. It’s perfectly shot, full of energy and innovation, matched with a dialogue that is so natural it could be a documentary. Vinz (played by the magnificent Vincent Cassel) Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui), and Hubert (Hubert Koundé) egg each other on, pull each other back, sometimes protecting and sometimes harming each other with their impulses and ethos.

The director, Mathieu Kassovitz, even has a small part in the film playing a racist skinhead who is beaten to a pulp, a world away from the quirky, romantic character he plays in Amelie. Social malaise is at the core here, but that doesn’t mean it’s all grim hard-hitting scenes. The French slang that fills the dialogue, the quirky anecdotes and storytelling, the weird cannabis-induced trips and the friendship and closeness of the three main characters uplifts and nourishes and inspires. It humanises far more than the voyeuristic journalists going on a poverty safari in the estate.

Black-blanc-beur, three categories that have come to define post-colonial France, but whose definitions are transgressed and blurred in La Haine. There are no stereotypes here, second-generation immigrants are treated as individuals in their own right who are pushed to violence to get an eye for an eye after one of the residents in the estate is shot and killed by the police. We’re here to protect you, says a policeman, but who’s here to protect us from you? In one of the most uncomfortable scenes of police brutality when they abuse their status of protection to strip away the humanity of their prisoner; their victim, all because of their ethnicity and their preconceived judgements based on the colour of their skin. Kassovitz shows the borderline torture and sadism that can make two grown men cry.

La Haine has lost none of its relevance and is a must-see in this current social climate of protest against police brutality. It’s saddening to see that the systemic racism that’s visible in La Haine is still palpable today, but it is films such as these that speak truth to power and make a stand for the marginalised voices people who are so often ignored and reduced to ill-conceived stereotypes.

La Haine premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995 and is re-released in a new 4K restoration on 11 September 2020 in the UK, in cinemas and at BFI Southbank.

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