These thoughts on La haine by director Costa-Gavras first appeared in the program book for the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, where the film was screened.
La haine is a phenomenon, in that it is an abnormal, a surprising, and a rare event in French filmmaking, so often inhibited by the legacy of the New Wave.
With La haine, we are not mere spectators of character study and analysis, or of the dramas and joys of love or society. We are inside a world we choose to ignore in France, or that we present at best as an exotic curiosity and, more often, as a world of violence ruled by antisocial and lawless youth. Kassovitz offers us inspired realism, drawn from Italian neorealism. This is new French realism, a genre that was denied any form of recognition or study.
When La haine was released, many chose to praise only the wonderful direction of the film. Others chose to consider it an exaggeration and a caricature of France’s underprivileged suburbs and their relations with the police. Still others saw it only as the use of ultraviolence for the purpose of entertainment based on purely fictitious human fabric, implying that this hate from both sides has no true motive.
Mathieu Kassovitz, however, managed to recognize in our world what our arrogance and individualism prevented us from seeing: the very future of our society.
This future started a year ago. The children or the younger siblings of the film’s characters started their uprising. In November of 2005, they took to the streets, burned hundreds of cars, and threw thousands of Molotov cocktails at the police sent to “pacify” them.
I consider La haine to be a metaphor for our world. More than ten years ago, Mathieu Kassovitz showed us at the scale of a neighborhood what is happening today at a global level. The peacemakers, those who are supposed to spread democracy and justice on behalf of our sated and self-satisfied societies, are spreading death, contempt, racism, and humiliation.
They are creating a world of haine.