From Europe with Love, Deeper Into Movies

Steven T. Hanley loves indie movies and documentaries and his favourite European film has always been La Haine.

Taken from our From Europe with Love series

Audio transcription:

My name is Steven T. Hanley, I run Deeper Into Movies. For the past three years we’ve been celebrating Indie/​World/​Documentaries and especially overlooked and underseen in movies. My favourite European film has always been La Haine, I saw it back in the 90’s on video.

I always love movies set and one day, movies where a whole bunch of crazy shit plays out over 24 hours. It’s based around three friends: a Jew, an African and an Arab — a strong reflection of the immigrant culture at the time. It’s set in modern day France in a low income housing district in Paris and the three main characters Vince, Hubert and Saïd as they’re hanging out aimlessly through the day, the day after there’s police riots in response to a young person being killed in police custody. And the film really puts a spotlight on the immigrant culture in Paris.

I remember when it came out it caused a real stir, the French police hated it. The prime minister of France at the time commissioned a special screening of the film for the cabinet, but he came away and said, It’s a beautiful piece of cinema and it makes us more aware of certain realities, despite the anti-police themes.’ And looking back, the film does not get old. It doesn’t age. It’s still stylistically stunning, the performances were amazing, a lot of them first time actors. And sadly it still holds political and social relevance and just that raw energy of the movie and that tension in that movie and the way it’s just building and building and simmering like it could all kick off at any point. I think is kind of that energy you have making a debut film. It’s just so powerful and I think is clearly a big influence on other awesome stuff like Top Boy and City of God.

There’s such a distrust and hate for the police and the authorities, but on the flip side it’s really funny. It’s a really funny movie, I love the characters. I grew up in Harlesden, North West London and I really connected with them as did my friends. You know, we were bored, we listened to hip hop, we smoked a lot of weed, we cared about our clothes and it’s worth pointing out my friends loved the movie and these guys weren’t film nerds like me. The last thing they’d want to watch when they came over was like a black and white French movie with subtitles but five minutes in they were like, Ok this is great. I totally get these guys.’

Probably the craziest thing about this movie is it was shot in colour and I literally can’t imagine it any other way than that stark, monochrome, black and white. It’s one of the coolest things about the film but it was literally a decision in post-production to make it black and white, which is fucking crazy. Especially because sometimes I remember when we were really pretentious in college, we’d tried to make everything black and white in post production but it wouldn’t look good because it wasn’t filmed that way, so certain clothes would just look gaudy, or weird cars and stuff. But La Haine perfectly works in black and white, and I kind of wish I didn’t know. There’s certain things you find out about movies that you wish you never knew, and that’s really one of them. I just like to think of it in black and white. Beautiful. Timeless.

Another thing I really loved about the movie is it’s got that crazy, kinetic, hyper speed camera work with loads of whips and pans. There’s that amazing slow-motion scene where Hubert is boxing. There’s an amazing scene where they’re on the rooftop which is really iconic where the camera zooms and I think at the same time it’s moving in as well. And it blew my mind when I was a film student.

I spent literally half a day on a film set trying to recreate this shot. Also I think my favourite scene, I loved the opening shot of the earth being petrol bombed. That’s freaking amazing. And weirdly I love this whole recurring thing that Vince keeps on saying that he’s seen a cow walking around the estate and everyone thinks he’s high or out of his mind or he’s dreaming, but then you do see the cow and it’s just, it’s such a great, odd piece in the film.

It kind of reminds me of something of sounds like from a Jim Jarmusch movie but it also reminds me of J.G. Ballard who wrote Empire of The Sun, he was writing about World War Two and walking around after bombings and seeing really bizarre, surreal things like pets running wild, a bed that’s just blown in half, next to a toilet, next to a fridge, next to a pile of clothes and all these kind of really surreal things that don’t really belong together.

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