Quite the unparalleled cinematic offering, Kornél Mundruczó’s “White God” and its plot can actually be summarized in a fairly straightforward manner: Girl loves dog. Dog trusts girl. Girl’s Father, as well as the rest of society, scorns dog. Dog, after experiencing the harsh realities of life, trains, rounds up a military-like legion of mutts, and goes on a revenge-seeking rampage. While the synopsis flows off the tongue like the reciting of a campy, B-movie plot, “White God” is anything but that. It’s locked and loaded, unrelenting in its depiction of both a girl and her dog’s adjustments to the injustices and changes around them. Below the surface, this is also a curiously metaphorical depiction of social inequalities within contemporary Europe. Telling this through the guise of a dog lover’s revenge flick, be warned: “White God” is no “Homeward Bound”.
We enter into this sort of part familiar, part darker reality as 13-year-old Lili (Zsófia Psotta) and her dog Hagen are temporarily left in the care of her father Daniel (Sándor Zsótér). When Daniel refuses to pay the taxes necessary to keep the mix breed dog at home, he promptly releases the mutt out into the wild, unknowingly starting an eye opening turn of events for the whole city. As Hagen starts to experience brutality at the hands of humans, he becomes the scene stealer of the film. Lili also stands out with her own particular stoic, rebellious demeanor. Her growth as a teenager is told in parallel with Hagen’s own dog troubles, creating an interesting narrative formula. Sometimes the parallel storytelling has its flaws, but as the credits play, it's hard to find fault. For this, credit should be given to the trainers that managed to create dog-centric scenes that were often more captivating than any shared between the human actors. Luke and Bodie, the two mixed breed dogs that shared the role of Hagen, are remarkable. That Mundruczó and crew were able to create moments where you actually feel the dogs’ emotions exuding from the screen is a feat well worth applauding.
Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, “White God” easily fits within the award’s predilection for original and different work. It’s a gripping fantasy about a world where humans, so often asserting their authority as an all-powerful being, are finally punished for their “sins”. Whether we are talking dogs or just using them as a metaphor for ethnic inequality, the message is clear. Now widely available on several VOD platforms, “White God” is the type of filmic fare that should be consumed, if only to finally see the hand that feeds get rightfully bitten back.
White God – Hungary, 121 MINS
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Starring Zsófia Psotta and Sándor Zsótér
Link to Trailer: https://vimeo.com/114052375
Link to VOD Links (July 28, 2015 Release): http://www.magpictures.com/whitegod/