A movie review of “White God”: Canines rise up against humans after being pushed too far in this live-action dog drama that evokes Dickensian melodrama, coming-of-age tropes and outright horror. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
In a war between mean, stupid humans and canine insurgents, don’t bet on the two-legged antagonists.
The dogpocalypse arrives in “White God,” a mixed-genre fable that evokes Dickensian melodrama, coming-of-age tropes and outright horror. The film is also a sociopolitical allegory of sorts about what can happen when a minority population is discriminated against too long and pushed too far.
At the story’s center is 13-year-old Lili (Zsófia Psotta), whose uptight father, Daniel (Sándor Zsótér), casts her mixed-breed dog, Hagen, into the streets for being an unworthy mutt. His disgust with non-purebreds is echoed in remarks by almost everyone in “White God.”
Movie Review ★★★
‘White God,’ with Zsófia Psotta, Sándor Zsótér. Directed by Kornél Mundruczó, from a screenplay by Mudruczó, Viktória Petrányi and Kata Wéber. 118 minutes. Rated R for violence and gruesome images. In Hungarian, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema Egyptian.
Lili and Hagen are separated, and what follows is a series of inhumane events inflicted on the latter. The hardest scenes to watch are of Hagen being tortured (implied only, through creative editing) as part of his training to become a champion dogfighter. That killer instinct radicalizes Hagen when he later leads an army of vengeful dogs seeking blood on the streets of Budapest.
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Meanwhile, Lili’s own bumpy path to wisdom turns her into a near-mythic figure. In the film’s breathtaking opening scene (a hint of things to come), she seems almost to be a figurehead for Hagen’s warriors — a Joan of Bark.
“White God” is a marvel on a production level — not so much cinematically exciting as technically stunning. Hungarian co-writer and director Kornel Mundruczo manages to get a stirring performance out of 50 or more dogs, and pulls off quite a few scenes of stark drama and violence involving dogs without resorting to computer effects or, according to reports, on-set mistreatment.
“White God” (the curious title is open to interpretation) is no Disney charmer, but its dark magic — and cautionary fantasy — is in the way sustained human arrogance unleashes the unthinkable.