Power, Poverty and Conflict within Cinema; ‘La Haine’.

The stylistic choices in terms of narrative structure have a bearing upon the theme in a film. How far do you agree in terms of your chosen films and the themes of Power, Poverty and Conflict?

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The director of ‘La Haine’, Matteu Kassovitz, like many other directors, purposefully constructs their narrative structures within their films to convey thematic meaning. The main themes within the film are indeed power, poverty and conflict and it could be said that each theme can be applied to each of the film’s three central characters; Vinz with his conflicting nature throughout, Saiid and his impoverished background as well as his racial conflicts and Hubert with his sense of power and integrity. These are all troubled youths living within a society that has seen some of the most traumatic social and political events within contemporary France so it is clear that Kassovitz has gone out to construct his film’s narrative, with the societal issues being at the core. Immediately, the director wants to inject that same political unrest/message within the opening montage/credit sequence as a statement to state the context of the situation surrounding the lower classes. The music within this montage is Bob Marley ‘Burnin and Lootin’ which reflects the riots that we see onscreen, the director wants to portray the high-level of chaos and disorder that had struck the Banlieue.

At the start, there is obviously a high-level of conflict but in terms of power, it is unknown who is the more powerful, the authority figures such as the police? Or is it the rioters/protesters in the streets? At the beginning of the film, we come to know that a local young man, of Arabic descent, is wounded in a shooting which is linked to the police. Racist violence is a trigger for the film, but it rapidly disappears to make way for a consensual view of the three friends, united in their societal exclusion. The film’s narrative is cyclical as we go from being at the start within the Banlieue, to the setting of an upper class Paris, to then ending back at the Banlieue. This signifies that the violence engulfs the entire narrative, the film starts with violence and it is extremely violent at the end. Also, the director wants to emphasize the Banlieue itself, he does not want to sugar-coat the location by setting the film primarily in Paris for the film’s entirely, so that we know of the struggles and conflict that encompasses the location.

It could be said the film’s entire narrative structure revolves/centres around the themes of power, poverty and conflict, a deliberate choice/method used by the director to create quite a unique number of thematic sequences. At the start of the film, we begin with conflict, focusing on the riots, to poverty as we experience the run down Banlieue to then, arguably, powerful element of the three young men walking through the estate, as if with some form of ownership and belonging. All three characters want to gain power in some form or another, they want to progress their lives for the better; Vinz, in effect, wants to be feared and the whole idea of power itself entices him, seeing it as a worthy ambition to aspire to. Saiid just wants to survive within the Banlieue but yet he wants to be able to experience/live a much more positive life. Whereas, Hubert wants to escape the Ban lieu, he wants to be successful and feels as if he has a lot more to offer than what a life on the estates would pose.

Kassovitz intention to have a narrative which sees both the highs and lows within the French society as he wants to raise political issues, more significantly the events that occurred within the Sarkozy era in which these events/political arguments perpetuated the issues/struggles that we can see within ‘La Haine’. Vinz, Hubert and Saiid’s alienation within their society ‘is representative of the social rift that divides the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots’, the ‘mainstream’ from the ‘independent’ and the beautiful city of Paris to the Banlieue.

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