“La Haine” by Mathieu Kassovitz, with Hubert Kounde, Said Taghmaoui and Vincent Cassel. (Photo by … [+] Pool ARNAL/GARCIA/PICOT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
The cult French film, La haine, about police brutality in the Parisian suburbs was released 25 years ago. Its director, Mathieu Kassovitz, announced on Wednesday that he was preparing a musical adaptation of his film.
Kassovitz’s film still resonates today, twenty-five years later, echoing even beyond French borders. The film was made in response to the accidental shooting of Makomé M’Bowole in a police station in 1993. Riots soon followed in protest, just as the film shows in the opening documentary footage.
Set in a suburb of Paris, in the aftermath of a violent riot, La haine follows three inseparable friends, Hubert, Saïd and Vinz (Hubert Kounde, Saïd Taghmaoui and Vincent Cassel) for a day. Each has a very different personality. Hubert is the level-headed boxer who keeps on calming Vinz, the hothead of the trio, while Saïd mediates between the two. Angry at the police for killing one of theirs, the trio roam the suburb, then head to central Paris, where they meet more trouble. As Hubert says, hate attracts hate. However, as the film suggests, they are imprisoned within that cycle of hate.
La haine is the equivalent to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in France. Both—within their own cultural contexts—denounce discrimination and police brutality. La haine was not the first French film on the banlieue, but it was the first of such films to have such a hugely popular reception, achieving international acclaim. It was selected at the Cannes Film Festival, where Kassovitz won the Best Director award. It has since inspired many films in France, such as Houda Benyamina’s Divines, or last year’s Jury Prize at Cannes, Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables, which also stems from a real case of police brutality.
The news that La haine could be turned into a musical may surprise some. Kassovitz explained on the French channel RMC/ BFM TV that he was approached by a big musical producing studio in Paris. They believe that as the film has now become part of French popular culture, it would be interesting to develop it into a musical, as has been done with Romeo and Juliet or Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
Kassovitz confessed that he always thought of the film as a musical. The 1995 film was written, he says, like a hip-hop musical, with successive rap pieces, that have a specific rhythm. The new version, Kassovitz explained, will be an interactive film on stage, combining dance, song and hip-hop together.
The news of a La haine musical is not so surprising when considering that in 1995 an album of hip-hop music was released to accompany the film, called La haine, musique inspirée du film (La haine, music inspired by the film). It featured big names from the French hip-hop scene, such as IAM, Assassin, Sens Unik, to name just three. Kassovitz told the artists the themes of the film and asked them to develop them as they saw fit in their music.
Each individual track in this compilation album were thus inspired by the script and themes of the film. The songs do not feature in the film itself, which has no musical soundtrack that isn’t diegetic—that is, all the songs heard during the film have their source within the images, such as a radio, and can be heard by the characters. The only exception is the Bob Marley song in the opening sequence, which accompanies the documentary footage. The album thus is not strictly the film’s soundtrack, but offers a further dimension to the film, as each band recount their own experience of living in the suburbs, of police discrimination and brutality, or denounce the role of the media. If a musical is really made out of the film, as Kassovitz claims, perhaps the music will be taken from this album.
La haine is on the Criterion Channel and Amazon Prime Video. The BFI will re-release the film in a 4K restoration in theaters later this year in the U.K.