La Haine | A Level French Revision Tips | Writing Exam

The A Level French Writing paper is a breeze with these useful pointers from Adeline!


The film “La Haine” is a classic of the A Level syllabus, and is suggested for instance by Edexcel and AQA. Most A Level students will sit their French Paper 2 (Writing) mid-June, so we thought it would be worth going over some of the works that will come up!


We’ve already discussed Les Choristes and Entre les Murs in our Teacher in Talkies series, but today I would like to focus on La Haine for the Writing exam.


French Paper 2 (Writing)


Before we start, here’s a reminder of what will be expected of students in Paper 2 — as always, please double check the official instructions that apply to you with your own school and exam board, but this should apply to most students.


The exam paper will have a series of questions covering all the works set in the syllabus (texts and films). For each work, there will be two possible questions and you are free to pick the question you like the most out of the two. Out of all the questions, you only need to answer two. If you want to answer 2 questions on 2 texts, that’s fine, but you cannot answer 2 questions on 2 films: if you want to answer a question on a film, the second question you pick has to be on a text.


You won’t have access to the texts or films during the assessment, and you are expected to write essays that are approximately 300 words long. It is also noted that “all questions will require a critical appreciation of the concepts and issues covered in the work and a critical and analytical response to features such as the form and the technique of presentation, as appropriate to the work studied (e.g. the effect of narrative voice in a prose text or camera work in a film)” (AQA).


This is important: it means you need to know the plot and themes well, but also to be aware of the artistic and technical dimension of the work, so make sure you include both elements in your revision if you want to get a top grade! In “La Haine”, one of the obvious things to discuss would be the use of black and white for instance, but there are plenty of other things you might want to include.


La Haine — Main Facts


La Haine (“Hatred”) was directed by Mathieu Kassovitz and came out in 1995 (click to see trailer). The film focuses on three young men — Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Hubert (Hubert Koundé) and Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) living in the French “banlieue”. It depicts 24 hours of their lives, on the day after violent riots took place, and describes the tension between them and the police.


Useful vocabulary & quotes from La Haine


Banlieue: the film takes place in a French “banlieue” (it was shot in Chanteloup-les-Vignes, in the North West of Paris). “Banlieue” is tricky to translate because even though it literally means “suburbs”, the connotations are very different in French. In French, “banlieues” are low-income neighbourhoods with a high percentage of immigrant populations. They are often on the fringe of bigger cities like Paris or Lyon. I’ve seen “banlieue” translated as “fringe”, which reflects their marginal dimension and the fact that they tend to be overlooked by the rest of society. It is also worth noting that the inhabitants of banlieues are called “banlieusards” (the spelling is tricky so worth including on your revision cards).


Bavure: litteraly, “baver” means to dribble, and “bavure” can be used to describe a smudge of ink on a page. In the context of the film — “une bavure policière” — it describes a police blunder, an act of violence that shouldn’t have happened. As the film revolves around the tension between the characters and the police, this is a particularly useful word to know!


• "C’est l’histoire d’un homme qui tombe d’un immeuble de cinquante étages. Le mec, au fur et à mesure de sa chute, il se répète sans cesse pour se rassurer : jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien. Mais l'important n’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage."


This is probably the most famous quote in “La Haine”. Hubert describes a character falling off a building, and repeating to himself “so far I’m doing fine”. However, Hubert’s conclusion is that “it’s not the fall that’s important, it’s the landing”. There are many ways to analyse this but it can be seen as a comment on the state of the banlieues and the fact that society is trying to ignore the issues they are facing — pretending it’s all going to be fine, and exposing itself to disaster.

Extra reading


• In French: the French equivalent of IMDB (Allociné) has a lot of information on the film, including a section of anecdotes and fun facts about the film. Useful if you’re a cinema fan and want to know more about the references in the film.


• In French: Wikiquote has a very useful recap of quotes in the film. They are not all worth remembering, but you might want to learn one or two!


• In English: this Medium article is a bit more advanced but offers a fascinating reflection on the relationship between the environment (i.e. the architecture of the banlieue) and the characters. It refers to specific techniques in the film so it is really good if you want more ideas about the technical aspects to comment on. If you find arguments you might want to reuse, remember to think of how you would put it in French.


Bonne chance!


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Adeline runs our Admin Team. With a PhD in English, she can call herself a doctor but can’t write prescriptions!


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