Poster

All I needed to hear from The Film Vault was that there’s a foreign movie about a dog uprising.

SOLD! That tasty tease was enough for me to immediately add White God to my queue on Netflix. One of the many reasons I love the movie podcast The Film Vault is because I find out about these gems. You have never seen anything like White God before, which should be enough to sell you as well.

However, White God opens with an annoying pet peeve of mine by flashing forward—basically to the end of the second act. In this case, I believe that choice is made because the director wants to reassure you that the movie is going somewhere. I can understand it to an extent since this is a very hard watch. The entire first act of White God is brutality befalling a poor innocent dog who is thrown out on the streets for no fault of his own. Although the opening shades everything you see in that light, it’s not the worst setup for this movie given the difficult nature of seeing an animal abused by nearly everyone except the girl.

At its core, White God is a movie about a girl and her dog.

Zsofia Psotta

The girl is Lili—played by Zsofia Psotta. I can’t overstate how great this little girl is in White God. As the single sympathetic human being, Zsofia carries the movie in every non-dog scene. She’s adorable and is astounding in how well she personifies the character. You feel her love for the dog, which only makes everything more heartbreaking. Everyone else is an asshole and deserves their comeuppance.

The dog is Hagen. And Hagen will steal your heart. He stole mine, that’s for sure.

Partners in Crime

I don’t know how you get a dog to act. Creative editing has a lot to do with it, but there are reaction shots of Hagen and other dogs—particularly his little partner in crime—that overwhelm you with emotion.

It is a phenomenal accomplishment for writer/director Kornel Mundruczo.

White God is a foreign film that was the Hungarian entry (though not nominated) for last year’s Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category. Aside from Wild Tales, I would probably say White God is better than the rest of the actual nominees. This is a very ambitious film that has some depth touching upon class and cultural issues. While it delves into the absurd at time, this is a very harsh look at how we treat others. Humans and animals alike, everyone looks down upon those on the streets.

In this movie, the country is overrun by wild, unwanted dogs.

Dogs

Of course, they are unwanted because they aren’t pure. A heavy “mongrel” fine has been imposed by the government, and people are encouraged to report anyone who has a mixed-breed dog. There’s a cavalcade of evil, mostly nameless faces in White Dog. The government, dog-catchers, dog-fighters, dog pound, a homeless man, and even Lili’s music teacher are all absolute assholes in this situation.

Arguably, the worst villain in this situation is Lili’s father, Daniel—played by Sandor Zsoter. Daniel doesn’t directly inflict the most despicable damage on Hagen, but he makes it all possible and he’s the one who causes the most harm to his own daughter with his dickish indifference. Lili’s parents are divorced and her mom is leaving on a trip, which is why she is staying with her dad in the first place.

His nosey neighbor reports Hagen and Daniel refuses to pay the “mongrel” fine, which leads him to just letting Hagen loose in the middle of the fucking street. It’s a sickening exchange to see Hagen confused and running after the car when Daniel starts to drive away. The way these shots are presented is hauntingly beautiful. The transformation of Hagen will be forever emblazoned in my brain.

Hagen

White God is far from perfect, but it is a movie that I will never forget.

Large, coordinated packs of dogs are running wild through empty streets in the second half of this movie. Managing to film coherent scenes that rely solely on the actions and movements of these dogs is a phenomenal achievement. When the movie finally catches up to the flash forward shown in the opening, all hell is breaking loose and it builds tension to set up a terrific ending with everything at stake.

White God isn’t the easy viewing experience, but this is a movie that deserves your attention.

Good Dog

3.5 out of 5 stars

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