By Vlad Popescu
Already more than a week has passed since I have watched “La Haine,” one of the movies present on the very face of French cinematography through both its message and influence worldwide. It has been a very anticipated experience ever since I’d heard the short “jusqu’ici tout va bien…” anecdote, eager to dig into the movie for its meaning.
At the first contact with Vinz, Hubert, and Said, it’s not necessarily them who strike me as complex characters, but rather the relationships they have with each other and their wishes for the near future, which are worthy of contemplation and deep analysis. Vinz, as someone who wants to make his way aggressively and cynically through the “banlieue” in his daily confrontations with the police, has to deal with finding a .44 revolver that a policeman lost in a riot. Hubert’s cerebral behavior (in antithesis with the fact that he is a boxer), drives his will to leave the “banlieue” and search for whatever better things life has stored for him. Said is merely a childish mediator between Vinz and Hubert, but still represents a state of mind most people can relate to at certain points in life. Consequently, the movie’s moral compass shifts between Vinz’s decision of whether or not to kill a cop, this being his way of responding to the wrongdoings of the system, and Hubert’s attempt to turn away and look for ways to achieve in life, trying to convince his group to follow him and act similarly.
There are two distinct moments in this movie that were shocking and insightful to me at the same time, both crucial to the experience, that I feel compelled to talk about. The first one is the bathroom scene where a fight between Vinz and Hubert is interrupted by an old man who tells a story about a friend named Grunwalski that he met in a Siberian working camp. Grunwalski was being left behind by a train that started without him, after the group of workers went to relieve themselves in the wild. As the narrator of the story was trying to give him a hand to hop on the train, Grunwalski would reach out and his pants would drop. In the end, he froze to death. The way the group’s story is put into perspective here is masterful, compared to the way Hubert keeps reaching his hand out to Vinz, who is constantly faced with the decision of whether to grab it and “drop his pants” or not grab it and hold onto them.
The second moment is marked by the ending scene with Hubert’s voiceover explaining the reality of his own falling society through his anecdote from the beginning. All it takes is that shock, and facing it, you can close your eyes like Said. And with nobody looking at the outcome, it’s easy to constantly reassure yourself. “Jusqu’ici tout va bien.” Mais seulement jusqu’ici…
*The author of this movie essay is a student at Tallulah Falls School, GA, USA