Asian Dub FoundationInvisible Wind Factory 25/5/18
Here are the young men with weights on their shoulders. How a film crams 20 terror-filled hours into a more easily digestible 98 minutes; how a film depicts the urban terror of young lives blighted by police brutality and the mistrust of immigrants. And so it goes…
Now rightly seen as a masterpiece of its genre, Matthieu Kassovitz’s film La Haine (Hatred) is a complex, monochrome feast which details the lives of three friends (Saïd, an Arab, Hubert, an African and Vinz, a Jewish skinhead) over the course of one day following a riot in the banlieue, a huge, sprawling estate where they all live. The film is steeped in endemic racism from end to end.
Their friend Abdel has been beaten by the police and lies in a coma in hospital. The estate is in tatters and the CRS (riot police) are patrolling the area for miscreants. During the course of the film the three attempt to go about their day-to-day business as best as they can, thwarted at every twist and turn by the forces of oppression.
What it shows best is the utter mundanity of life for young men with very few options in their life. Their shallow lives consist of very little other than rolling joints and avoiding the police and their harsh method of dealing with the local youth. From Paris to Port Said, in all the world’s conurbations, for young men divested of a future and with no real footing in the present, the song remains the same. This could be anywhere where young people congregate and call their home. I grew up on a council estate that, while predominantly white, offered young men the exact same option: absolutely fuck all. These young men have nothing but each other.
The day gets worse at every available opportunity and, although the narrative constantly talks of better times and a misplaced idea of what the future will be, a dark, dystopian pall hangs over everything. These young ‘uns have nothing, not even an immediate future and the desperation of it all – twinned with a gallows humour that things will get better – underpins almost every moment of dialogue.
The tension and the danger are expressed via Pierre Aim’s supreme cinematography. Utilising that most French of techniques, cinema vérité, the camera never stops moving. Whether it be Hubert’s smouldering gym, torched in the riot, or the very real anger that occupies Vinz’ furious face, it’s all captured in a dark, grainy, ever flowing monochrome. No colour, just dark and shade illuminating the screen, it appears to accentuate everything and gives it a realness that Technicolor may have overlooked. This is the element that has separated it from all other films of its genre in the last two decades. Whereas a lot of its contemporaries were stylised and of the moment, La Haine has kept that element of unease, an authenticity in both language and image that puts it on a different plane.
One of its greatest successes on the film’s release in 1995 was its soundtrack, which along with a smattering of American RnB and Bob Marley, contained a selection of French hip hop that, for most people in the English speaking world, was a revelation. The bombastic nature of the beats and words only added to the tension in the film. Tonight, at the Invisible Wind Factory, those fine purveyors of ethno-psychedelia, ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION, are providing their own live soundtrack. The live soundtrack has become a phenomenon in recent years: all manner of films from Star Wars to Tron to DW Griffiths’ Birth Of A Nation have been given the treatment with varying degrees of success. Some are played by a 90-piece orchestra, some by your local dead cool band, hoping to create a new environment. Here, where the soundtrack is absolutely essential to the overall experience of the film, the ante is raised considerably. ADF rise to the occasion. The opening sequence works incredibly well, the new soundtrack adding to the tension and unease and complementing the action in gritty detail. It gives certain parts of the film a whole new dimension and offers a new view of the experience. I find myself, right from the off, becoming totally engrossed in the imagery above the band. At times – and I’m not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing – the band seem to disappear completely and hold back imposing their trip on the images. It’s a fantastic experience, marred only by a few moments when the live track imposes its trip on the movie and creates a sound clash where the dialogue becomes muddied.
On the whole, though, I like it a lot. If only for reminding me what a truly wondrous spectacle La Haine really is; the thrill of watching the film for the first time comes flooding back to me immediately. It’s one of those niche films that will still be getting talked about in another 20 years’ time, as it contains a realism that few of its contemporaries have and that will always spark with youth of all generations and denominations. Giving already established, popular films new soundtracks will grow and grow, to varying degrees of success. But in the right hands, the right film can be re-introduced to you by your friendly neighbourhood leftfield pop band and make an enormous splash. It’s only a matter of time before the ‘game-changer’ in the genre comes along.