White God

“How does a touching girl-and-her-dog movie turn into a blood-soaked tale of vengeance and revolt? Brilliantly, that's how, in Kornél Mundruczó's White God. Hungary's official entry in the 2015 Academy Awards, and winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes, White God offers a very dark take on the way humans exert authority, and superiority, over our fellow creatures, specifically dogs.

“In the present-day Budapest imagined by Mundruczó, mixed-breed dogs are on the outs: To have one, the owner must pay a heavy fee, and the mutts that run loose are the targets of an overzealous troop of municipal dogcatchers. Enter the big, red-brown quadruped Hagen, the constant companion of Lili, a smart, slight 13-year-old whose mother has left her in the care of her divorced dad. Lili's father doesn't like dogs. Before long a tearful Lili and a hangdog Hagen are saying their farewells, and this wickedly satirical parable turns from a Disney movie into something like 12 Years a Slave: Hagen running with a pack of outcast dogs, then caught by a one-eyed vagrant who sells him to a dogfighting racketeer. Hagen gets sold again, this time to a trainer who injects him with drugs, prods, pokes, and beats him, turning the beast into exactly that: a snarling combatant, ready to kill. All the while, Lili is keeping a lookout for her friend. Inevitably, she finds him - or he, her.

“Beautifully shot in the old, grand quarters of the city, and staged with astounding realism - dozens of dogs roaming the streets, leaping walls, and wreaking havoc - White God can, of course, be read as allegory. An epigram from Rilke - "Everything terrible is something that needs our love" - begins the film.

“And what ends White God? A message of either hope or despair, but any way you look at it, it's awesome.” - Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer


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