As films go, there aren't many as controversial as Mathieu Kassovitz's 'La Haine' (Hate). It is a perennial favourite of mine which has been causing waves since its release in 1995. I only discovered it in 2007, and have been making up for lost time since.
It is the story of a day in the lives of three friends - Vinz, Saïd, and Hubert - following some rioting on their housing estate in which their friend Abdel is brutally beaten by a policeman and now lies in a comatose state in hospital. In the mêlée Vinz finds a lost gun belonging to a policeman, and vows to 'whack a pig' (kill a policeman) if Abdel dies in hospital. A simple enough storyline of urban youth discontent, crime and violence. Except there is so much more at play, for La Haine is loosely based on the true story of Makome M'Bowole, a Zairean who died in police custody from racist maltreatment by policemen. At the time, Kassovitz, fresh from his directional debut of the film 'Métisse' was said to have wondered how one could live in a society where you begun the day alive, and ended up dead at the hands of no less a people than the police who were meant to protect. So he took the story and moulded it into his own, in what would become one of the most talked about films in French cinema history and beyond.
I see parallels of La Haine in today's society, particularly where young people are concerned. There is an undercurrent of hate for, and in the system. There is an escalating level of teenage gang crime particularly in London, often with violent clashes between rival gang members in the 'postcode wars'; there is a yawning gap between the rich and the poor; a sickening horror of poverty and degradation; alienation of young people from their families; simmering anger and barely concealed hatred of the youth who the 'system' has failed...and the list goes on and on.
At the height of the financial crisis when I still naively assumed that it was something that was happening in the City (the financial heart of London) and therefore one that I wouldn't be touched by, I would have been hard-pressed to give an example of how the crisis affects the common man. Now I don't have to look far for them - from the mother whose child benefits are about to be slashed, through to the nine year old whose community club faces closure from lack of government support, to the student who is saddled with debts the size of Russia which hang like an albatross around the neck, whilst facing a bleak job marketplace which is experiencing a record high of graduate unemployment.
I'd still be playing the naïve fool if I thought all was dandy with the economy. Because of course whatever the turn of the economy, other sectors like health, education, transport, right down to the family, the most basic unit of any society, feel the knock- on effect. The government scissors are out, and the cutting is definitely in.
And even though I STILL do not completely understand any talk of budget and deficit cuts - perhaps I really should search for a book titled 'The economy explained in simple English for Dummies' - I wonder: are we a society in freefall? How will we land?