January 19, 2016

White God

Kornel Mundruczo, 2015
Somewhere between Stephen King’s Cujo and the newly rebooted Dawn of the Planet of the Apes films lies foreign thriller White God. The film focuses on young girl Lili (Zsofia Psotta) and her mixed-breed dog Haden. When Lili is forced to stay with her biological father for three months, her dog tags along with her. Soon after arriving at the apartment, a nosy neighbor spots the mutt and contacts the authorities. In Hungary, mixed breed dog owners must pay a tax to maintain possession of them. When her father refuses to pay the fee, tension builds between him and his daughter. When Lili gets in trouble for bringing the dog to school with her, her father angrily kicks the dog out of the car - abandoning it in the streets. Poor Haden is forced to fend for himself. While Lili is struggling to get along with her father, Haden is taken in by a dog fighter who begins conditioning him for battle. It doesn’t take long for Haden’s friendly, benign demeanor to become taken over by pure aggression. That sense of aggression follows Haden to the animal shelter when he is finally captured. He manages to break loose and attack one of the shelter workers and frees all of the incarcerated dogs. Their pack mentality kicks in, and they begin wreaking havoc on the city.

The duality between Lili and her lost pup is really the basis of the film. They had an affectionate balance with each other. When they were separated the aggression and defiance began to build in both of them. The dynamic between her and her father is a difficult one. We see her fathers sad eyes early on when he is in the middle of a meat inspection. You can tell he is disgusted by his job, constantly having to wash blood away from his clothing. He is still nursing the wounds of his heartbreak from the divorce. When Lili is cold to him, it must be unbearably frustrating for him.

White God plays with some uncommon elements. It’s not often that we see a large pack of dogs brutally attacking a city. An indictment on the Nazi-like purebred dog ideology, it’s a revenge film for the great mutts of the world. The film ends satisfyingly, even if its nothing more than letting the dogs finally get their momentary say.

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