La Haine (1995)
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz.
Starring: Vincent Cassel (Vinz), Hubert Koundé (Hubert), SaVd Taghmaoui (SaVd), Abdel Ahmed Ghili (Abdel), Solo (Santo), Joseph Momo (Ordinary guy), HéloVse Rauth (Sarah), Rywka Wajsbrot (Vinz's grandmother), Olga Abrego (Vinz's aunt), Laurent Labasse (Cook), Choukri Gabteni (Said's brother), Nabil Ben Mhamed (Boy Blague), Benoît Magimel (Benoît), Medard Niang (Médard), Arash Mansour (Arash).
social and racial tension in the outskirts of French cities (by Mathieu Kassovitz)
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
France. The riot police are trying to stop a riot of young people, including French-Arabs and French-Africans. The young rioters in the "projects" attack a police station. Fourteen officers are wounded and thirty-three rioters are arrested. The riot is in response to a bad case of police brutality. A French-Arab named Abdel Ichha is in the hospital in critical condition. The police are trying to find the service revolver that one of their policemen lost during the riots.
10:38. French-Arab Said writes "F... the Police" on a police van. He then walks over to his Jewish friend Vinz’s building. He goes up the elevator and talks with Vinz who is still in bed. After Vinz gets dressed, they go see their French-African friend Hubert Dia. Hubert is a boxer who owns a gym.
Vinz and Said are amazed to see how the rioters made a mess of his gym. (Only Vinz participated in the riot.) The three of them go for a walk. Hubert tells the story of a man who jumps off the top of a skyscraper and on his way down, at each level he says ‘So far so good’, ‘So far so good.’, ‘So far, so good.’" It’s not the fall, but the landing that counts.
The mayor pays a visit to the projects. The young men have a hang-out place on the top of one of the apartment buildings where they play cards, talk and grill hot dogs. They are not pleased to see the mayor. The young men shout angrily down at the mayor. Three policemen come up to the hang-out and tell the young men that they have to leave the roof. Said’s brother asks them: "Are you going to make us?" There is a brief stand-off between the police and the young men. Said’s brother tells Said to get off the roof. Hubert, Vinz and Said get off the roof.
12:43. The three buddies chase away a news reporter.
1:00. The three friends visit another young Arab. He is very mad because the rioters burned his car. He has lost a lot of money.
2:12. Everyone learns that Abdel’s brother is now packing a shotgun. Vinz then shows his buddies that he has the police pistol. It is a Smith & Wessen, forty-four caliber revolver. Vinz says that if Abdel dies, he is going to shoot a cop.
3:47. The three friends try to see Abdel in the hospital. A policeman tells them that they cannot see him because he is in a coma. The three friends start arguing loudly with the policeman. Other policemen arrive and arrest Said. One of the plain-clothes policemen gives Vinz and Huber a ride to the jail where they get Said released. Said is glad to be out of jail. He comments "An Arab in a police station doesn’t last an hour."
When Hubert sees that Vinz has the gun with him, he gets disgusted and leaves. Hubert tells his mother in a desparate tone: "I want out of the projects." He adds that the projects are getting worse.
5:04. Abdel’s brother shoots his shotgun at a policeman, wounding him slightly. When the police try to grab the gunman, the young men in the neighborhood try to stop them. The police chase Vinz and Hubert. Cornered, Vinz threatens to kill one of the policemen with his pistol. To prevent this, Hubert knocks out the policeman. Vinz and Hubert get away from the policemen.
6:22. Hubert tells Vinz: "Hate breeds hate." But Vinz isn’t in the mood to listen. The three friends visit a crazy man named Snoopy, who owes 500 francs to Said. They don’t know Snoopy’s real name so they ring all the apartment bells. This makes the apartment dwellers very angry. The meeting with Snoopy does not last long, because he tries to start a fight with Vinz.
Said does not get his money. As Said and Huber walk out of the apartment building, the police arrest them. A moment later, Vinz comes out and the police ask him if he knows the two men under arrest. Vinz says no and then makes a run to get away. A policeman chases him, but he can not catch him.
8:17. The police start physically abusing Said and Hubert. Supposedly, they are teaching a police rookie how to abuse inmates without really hurting them. The secret they say is to stop in time.
10:08 A black bouncer won’t let three guys into a night club. The black man gets very angry and shoots the bouncer through an opening in the night club door, while Vinz looks on.
12:33 a.m. Vinz runs into Said and Hubert. They go to an exhibit at an art gallery. There they try to pick up two women, but have no luck. Faced with rejection, the guys start verbally abusing the women. They then threaten a man who tries to intervene on behalf of the females. The three bad men get out before the police are called. In the fracas, Hubert pick pockets a wallet. Then the three friends try to steal a car. They have to run away when the police come.
2:57 a.m. On top of a roof, Said sees some Skinheads below. He shouts to them: "F... Hitler!" The friends take a walk. They keep running into an advertisement: "The world is yours." For them, no it’s not. Hubert starts criticizing a French man on his way to work. Huber tells Said "They say they’re not racist, but vote ultra-conservative." Said calls the man a racist. On the television is news about the war in Bosnia. Then the announcer says that Abdel has died.
4:27 a.m. Said and Hubert wonder where is Vinz. They run into him and they get mad at him for scaring them. They feared he went off to kill a policeman. The three of them then run into the Skinheads. They recognize Said as the one who shouted at them from the roof. The Skinheads start beating up Said and Hubert. Vinz pulls out his revolver and chases away the hoodlums. That is, all except one. They rough up the captured man and threaten to shoot him. The man is very scared. Hubert taunts Vinz: "Shoot him!" "This is your chance to get even."
But Vinz does not shoot. Instead, he gives the pistol to Hubert. Said and Vinz start walking home, but run into the police again. The police grab the two fellows. One of the policemen, threatens to shoot Vinz in the head. Accidentally, the weapon fires. Vinz is shot in the head and dies.
6 a.m. Hubert rushes to Vinz. Hubert and the policeman point their pistols at each other and he says to the policeman: "It’s like a society on it way down at each level saying ‘so far, so good’, ‘so far, so good." As the camera fades out, a big bang is heard. We do not know what really happened.
Excellent movie. France seems to be in danger of creating a permanent semi-caste system with people of color at the bottom like that in the United States. The movie clearly represents the alienation of the three friends in the projects: a Jew, an Arab and an African. All three face prejudice, discrimination and rejection and they, of course, don't like it. Tension between the police and the minorities is like that in the United States and the movie captures this constant tension. You are always waiting for an explosion to occur. The three actors playing the three friends were all terrific in the film. The movie was ahead of its time as racial/ethnic rioting has become more frequent and worse in intensity in recent years.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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