Tuesday, February 10, 2009

La Haine, and The Gun

While I was watching the opening sequence of La Haine I expected, like Aleema, the film to switch into color from black and white. Yet, when the opening sequence had finished, and the film had gotten underway the choice to film without color seemed completely natural. Surely, the director chose to film in black and white for many reasons, but for me I got a sense of the bleak and pale world in which the characters live. They live in a banlieu of Paris in a low-income housing project, where I felt they were forever going to be trapped; they had no jobs (unless you count drug-dealing) and weren’t in school. To further add to their troubles, one of their best friends was in the hospital with a coma after being beaten by a police officer during a recent riot; it seemed that nothing was going their way. The three main characters and best friends: Vince, Hubert, and Saïd seem to share this feeling, although Hubert most acutely when He laments to his mother that he needs to leave the project and he needs to leave soon. When he said to his mother that he needed to leave I had conflicting feelings; in one sense I thought at least he knows he needs to leave, but at the same time he is just doomed to suffer from this awareness because he will never be able to leave.

Interestingly, when the three friends seem to find some sort of luck, it is in a perverse fashion; Vince has found a missing police officer’s gun. I felt that only Hubert understood the unfortunate and grave nature of their luck whereas Vince and Saïd thought that by owning the gun they had more power.

In the context of this being a French film, one thing I found strikingly different between La Haine and American films was the amount of focus placed on the one gun. In most American cinema, especially movies taking place in poor inner-city type settings guns proliferate the screen and we see them fired far more often, and any two-bit gangster can find a gun with ease it seems. Maybe as Americans, with our wild-west roots, we treat guns in cinema with less care than the French. The effect, however, of having the attention revolve around Vince’s new gun is important, because in La Haine only the powerful own guns, like the police and an eccentric but wealthy drug-dealer. Then when Vince finds the gun he thinks he has become powerful, but the audience understands the unfortunate trap the gun has set for Vince, Saïd, and Hubert. Throughout the film the tragic consequences of finding the gun are foreshadowed by the kind of reverence that the three friends give the gun. One gets the sense that with the amount of attention the film and the characters pay to the gun that it must have some role to play, most likely for ill.

SPOILER ALERT!!! Important plot details to follow.

At the beginning of the final scene, the viewer might think that the foreshadowed tragic consequences of finding the gun have been averted. Finally, the more-rational Hubert has convinced Vince to give him the gun, and they part ways after a long night of running into trouble. However, in the last two minutes of the film, a gang member approaches Vince and Saïd with a gun, and he puts it to Vince’s head. The gang member threatens Vince, and then starts to withdraw, but the gun accidentally fires and kills Vince. From the look of shock on the gang member’s face we know that the gun fired accidentally. It seems, despite all of Hubert’s efforts to keep the gun from causing any harm, fate couldn’t be stopped. Hubert approaches the gang member and with the gun and holds it to his head. Still in shock, the gang member does the same. The film closes with Hubert and the gang member who murdered Vince both pointing guns at each other’s heads, the screen goes black and there is a gunshot. We don’t know who dies, but we know that Hubert’s wish to leave the project has come true either in death or in a police car.

p.s. Kai, posting at 4am ......someone is going to be tired today!

1 comment:

  1. It isn't a gang member at the end, it's a police officer.