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Revision: La Haine

I know we did our A levels months ago now, but I realised that I never got round to finishing this. It’s probably not as extensive as it could have been, if I’d finished it on time, but I figured it was better to post what I had than start making things up.

Below are all my study notes for La Haine. As always, if you have any, please comment below.


Plot

The film opens with images of riots. A voiceover says that it’s not the fall that damages people, it’s the landing.

A news programme describes the riots, and the situation of Abdul Ichacha, who is in a coma due to the actions of a policeman. The reporter also explains that a police officer lost a gun, which had yet to be found.

The scene then switches to Saïd, stood outside Vinz’s house. He shouts to him, but his sister yells back, much to the annoyance of the neighbours.

Vinz is woken from a dream of dancing by Saïd. He says that, during the riots, he saw a cow.

Vinz’s sister objects to Saïd smoking cannabis in the house. She also complains that the school was burned down during the riots.

Alone in the bathroom, Vinz talks to himself in the mirror. He imitates the film Taxi Driver, yelling and pointing his fingers like a gun.

The friends walk out to meet Hubert in a gym that was destroyed by the riots, where he is boxing. They discuss the riots further, and Abdul’s situation. Saïd says it isn’t worth a fight.

They come across a group of people on a roof. They buy some sausages from a barbecue, and discuss the missing weapon. Police appear telling them to get down from the roof. Things seem to get heated, but they leave without a fight.

After being kicked out, they sit in a playground telling jokes with a young boy. A journalist drives past, asking if they were involved in the riots of the night before. They become aggressive, accusing her of treating them like they’re in a zoo.

They end up in Darty’s apartment. From the window, the audience can see a crowd of angry people, with cars that were destroyed during the riots.

They go back outside, where Vinz reveals to his friends that he found the gun that was lost in the riots. He tells them of his plan to get revenge on the police. Hubert is very against this, but Vinz secretly brings the gun when they leave.

Then they go to the hospital to visit Abdul but are told that they can’t go in by the police. The friends become aggressive, which ends in Saïd being arrested. His brother takes Vinz and Hubert to bail him out.

Hubert goes home to see his family. His brother is in prison, and his mother expresses concern for him. The family is clearly struggling for money, needing school books and a new sewing machine.

The friends come across a group of young people who want to riot about Abdul’s situation. There is an argument between the police and the banlieusards. Vinz aims his gun at one of them, but Hubert ensures that they escape without incident.

On the RER, they go to Paris. In the station toilet, they argue about shooting the police. An old man tells them a story about a Siberian train journey and his friend Grunwalski who was left behind because of his pride.

They arrive at Asterix’s apartment and struggle to get in. When they enter, Asterix is barely dressed and offers them cocaine. He tries to get them to play roulette with the gun, which ends in a fight.

Police are outside when they leave and arrest Hubert and Saïd. Vinz manages to escape and sneaks into a cinema.

The police torture Hubert and Saïd, releasing them too late to catch the last train.

The friends sneak into an art gallery, where they flirt with some women. However, they end up arguing and getting kicked out. They try to take a taxi with a credit card that was stolen from the gallery but fail. They also try to steal a car but fail.

In the end, they wait at the train station, where they find out that Abdul has died. When the report finishes, Vinz has disappeared. The others look for him but are attacked by a skin head. Vinz aims a gun at him. Hubert tells him to shoot, knowing her can’t. Vinz doesn’t shoot, giving Hubert the gun and leaves.

They are walking away when a policeman stops Vinz and shoots him.

The film closed with the image of Hubert and the policeman aiming at each other, zooming in on Saïd’s face.

There is a gunshot, and the film ends.


Themes

An important theme of the film is social unrest. The film itself begins with riots, and the frequent references to them remind us of the unrest surrounding the banlieue. It is clear that there is a lot of misunderstanding and resentment between the banlieuesards and almost everyone else, creating a feeling of isolation.

The police are also a key theme throughout. In fact, Kassowitz’s portrayal of the police was quite controversial, as La Haine almost depicts them as the enemy. However, police brutality was (and still is) a significant concern for marginalised members of society, which Kassowitz wanted to focus on.

Race, immigration and marginalisation are also important. We see characters mistreated for the colour of their skin, such as when the police torture Abdul and Saïd. Because of the way they are treated, we also see the friends act out preemptively against the journalist and other higher class figures, which in turn makes them treat them worse, creating a vicious cycle.

Unemployment and poverty are also very apparent. The friends are neither at work nor in education, and so spend their days doing nothing productive. Because of the lack of opportunity, they’re essentially trapped in the isolated community of the banlieue.


Characters

Vinz

Vinz is an incredibly angry and reckless character. Like his friends, he feels as though society is against him. He views himself as a gangster, which is apparent in his short hair style. With the gun, he hopes to earn respect by getting revenge on the police.

Saïd

As the joker of the group, Saïd often tries to diffuse the tension with jokes. However, he is still very aware of the difficult world around him, and resists through small gestures such as graffiti and taking drugs.

Hubert

Hubert carries with him the potential for aggression. We know that he is a boxer, and he is ready to defend his friends, but he advocates peace. This is perhaps an attempt to break racist stereotypes against black youths, or a reminder that he would be treated more harshly should he choose to be violent, because of his race.


Social-Historical Context

Kassovitz was inspired to write the film by the death of a young black man due to police error. He aimed to show the marginalised parts of society who live in the banlieue.

A “banlieue” is an ethnically diverse area on the suburbs of a city, in this case, Paris. They are often home to large families who struggle economically.

The film is in black and white to highlight the documentary style through which it is told.


I also made a revision course on Memrise with all the key vocab.

Apologies again that it isn’t as in depth as some of the others. You might also find my (actually complete) revision post on Le Silence De La Mer helpful.

Good luck!

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