On paper, the French film La Haine (1995), or ‘Hate’, is a movie about three young men and a day in their life. On screen, La Haine is a social commentary that is brilliantly achieved through the three young men as they interact with their surroundings; and without ever really having to say a lot, it says a lot. The three main characters are Vinz, Saïd and Hubert. Vinz is the anti-system and anti-authority character. Saïd is the guy who seems as if he has a lot to prove, not to anyone else, but to himself. Hubert is the one who wants to get away. Hubert wants to get away from the tyranny of the ghetto, from the everyday politics of the place; he wants something he truly feels he deserves: a normal functioning life that is not based upon the colour of his skin. The film is simple enough. We follow the three guys as they go through their day until the very end, when you realise what the following saying means: “Ever heard the story of the monk who jumped off a skyscraper? As he passed each floor, he told himself, ‘So far, so good. So far, so good.’ That is us in the ghetto. So far, so good.”
Now that we are caught up with the basic essence of the film and the three protagonists, let me come to why I think this movie deserves more recognition and why it is underrated. One very simple reason: it is more relevant now than it ever was and it’s not being talked about enough. In a lot of ways, the three characters represent a lot of people around me. Vinz is that friend of mine who has gone through a certain level of oppression, as he has seen the society at its rawest, and is out for revenge. Saïd is that other friend who is honestly trying to get by and does not like to think a lot about what is going on around him.
And Hubert is me. A guy who is trying to get out of a society based on discrimination against attributes attached to you since birth. Hubert is not just me. Hubert is a lot of us in a third-world country such as India. What’s more important, especially for our country, is to understand characters such as Vinz. These are not kids who have been overly influenced by YouTube, or certain musical artists or stand up comedians. These are people who have an idea for a society and they have a drive to make the place they live in a little bit better. What La Haine truly teaches us is to understand these characters instead of dismissing them as being in a phase fuelled by adolescence and teen age. Vinz would be a lot of us if a lot of us still had that spark of optimism. Being as flawed as he is, he still opens up to our perception a part of society that is swept under the rug of propaganda, vote banks and sympathy garnering. Vinz is important for us to understand a part of society that a lot of us, a lot of Huberts, are trying to shut off. La Haine is underrated because it is trying to spark a conversation that seems to have been lost in the past few years. A conversation on hate and its functioning.
To be entirely clear, I am not encouraging the reader to become Vinz. I am encouraging the reader to understand Vinz. To understand how hate truly takes a hold of someone even if you haven’t felt it to the same degree. La Haine needs to be talked about more in a country where hate is a fuel that is burnt tirelessly everyday. From the newspaper opinion columns to that 10 p.m. show your father watches every night on that news channel you despise. Hate is a conversation we love to avoid. We can talk about positivity, optimism and love all day because of the beauty they hold. But they hold a certain beauty due to the existence of hate. It is the ugliness, rawness and the aggression of hate that gives them their beauty. To understand the beauty, one must understand hate as well. This movie is the most beautiful film ever made on hate. And hate is a conversation that this film encourages.
For me, as a Hubert, La Haine was extremely important as it brought me back to my roots. It grounded me. I wanted to just shut up and listen. Listen to the people around me, pay attention to what’s happening under the surface. It made me want to learn and not to preach. It made me want to listen before I talk. It made me want to have uncomfortable conversations about topics that just worsen when not talked about. It is rare when a film achieves this and La Haine does so extremely effectively. It makes you feel disturbed and shaken in a way that is extremely important to burst that bubble around you. It exposes you to the world, with your eyes wide open and your ears listening intently. La Haine is an underrated film for me because of the conversation it is trying to spark without ever really telling you so explicitly.
The saying comes back to me: “There was a monk who jumped from a skyscraper. As he passed each floor, he said to himself, ‘So far, so good. So far, so good.'” That is a lot of us living in an environment where hate is a constant fuel. “So far, so good. So far, so good.”
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.