In the mid 1990’s when La Haine was released it was met to great critical acclaim as it presented the major social issues at the time for modern day France. The problem of social exclusion was (and still is) one of the biggest political issues in France, and the director\writer’s intention was to tackle it head-on. One of the reasons that La Haine worked so well in attracting large audiences and media attention was how realistic the film appeared to be. This is achieved in a number of ways, including elements in the setting, language, narrative structure, and so on.
The film was shot in black and white, which immediately gives La Haine a sense of authenticity with a gritty and realistic look. La Haine is set in les banlieue, in the suburbs of Paris. From shooting on location in France, the audience can really get a feel for the living conditions and increases the believability and realism dramatically. As well as the run-down, gritty scenery, location shooting has the advantage of completely free-moving camerawork, giving La Haine a distinct documentary style.
From using this, the director gives the film a feel of validity. An example of this used in the film is where they gang are loitering on the rooftop, and the camera follows them about, staying with them – as if we are part of the group. This first-person experience with the events of the film is essential to creating realism. La Haine is also known for being very stylised and experimental, with scenes such as the bathroom scene with Vince looking into the mirror.
It could be argued that shots such as these deter from the realism, but I believe that the director created the film in a unique style to avoid losing the audience’s attention, and to create an outstanding film in the public eye. Another example of this type of filmmaking is on the balcony when they visit Paris, and the camera gradually pulls focus between the city streets and the group. This is an innovative and stylish technique to use in a film, and was most likely used for its “cool” factor to make the film gain some attention.
We are often positioned amongst the main characters, and this is evident in the scene where journalists arrive. This scene is very symbolic, as the camera angles support the social relationships between the middle class reporters and the inhabitants of les banlieue – high angle looking down on them (connoting dominance), and low angle looking up at the reporters. The mise en scene is also important as it mimics the imagery of a zoo – they are fenced in like animals being observed by the midde-class city people. It is almost like they are in a pit – lower than everyone else, mirroring their current situation.
The enclosed and compact framing also shows us how isolated these people are, it really seems that there is little chance of escaping for them. Techniques like these work well to guide the audience’s thoughts and feelings towards the events on screen and helps convey the realism of the social situation. Language in La Haine is very conversational, which is crucial for creating a believable environment. There are also many scenes where there are conversations that hold no relevance to the plot, a techniques used by directors such as Tarantino.
In one scene, the 3 boys are walking down an alleyway discussing “Sylvester and Tweetie Pie”. This is put in not only for comic relief, but for intertextuality as well – acting as a sort of direct link to reality shared between the film and the audience. This increases the believability and the realism of La Haine. The scene where the man in the toilet tells the story of his friend is interesting because it is deliberately ambiguous – we do not know whether it is a metaphor for something, or completely irrelevant to the plot.
What it definitely is, is comic relief. The occurrences up to this scene are quite heavy on the audience, and it certainly provides a much-needed break from it all. Dialogue like this can also make people reflect upon the events of the film thus far. Of course, there is not often comic relief in real life, so it is debateable as to whether this furthers or detracts from the realism. As well as the “Tweetie Pie and Sylvester” references, there are several other examples of intertextuality in the film.
The scene where the young boy explains a scene from the TV show “Candid Camera” is a good one as it is something that the audience can relate to – instantly making the film world more believable and authentic. One of the biggest intertextual references in La Haine is the “Taxi Driver” parody, with Vinz in front of the mirror. The slow and stylish camerawork builds up tension, as the camera slowly zooms in towards his face. He is at eye level, in the centre of the frame at close-up – this is very confrontational, unlike the original film where the protagonist was stood in medium shot, slightly to the side.
Vinz’s actions seem comic on the surface, but ideologically it shows he has been influenced by this film and the audience genuinely believes he could be capable of murder. This scene is one of the most stylized, especially with the cut at the end on the non-diegetic gunshot. This on the surface does deter from the realism, making the film more Tarantino-esque in its presentation. Narrative in La Haine tends to flow smoothly, in an almost documentary style. It seems to wander and we as the audience are always there to follow.
Scenes do not always bear relevance to the plot; the film seems to wander between. This is also detraction from typical Hollywood techniques. Narrative-wise, the film is very realistic as it is presented almost like a day in the life (albeit an interesting one). What is unrealistic however, is that the film does seem like it is building up to something, and we are constantly waiting for the answers we are asking from the beginning (Will Vinz kill somebody? Will Abdul die? ). But what we get is no real resolution, implying that the social problems of exclusion are still in occurrence.
The ending is open to interpretation. Overall, I feel that La Haine signifies a new direction in national social-realism cinema. Creating the film in a true documentary style would simply not be powerful enough to convey the true impact that the social issues were having at the time.. Documentary style simply does not work in voicing a message, and new-wave films such as La Haine and Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God” reinforce this with their different styles and techniques.