In the Hungarian film White God, young Lili’s (Zsofia Psotta) mixed-breed dog Hagen (Body and Luke) is abandoned by her overbearing father (Sandor Zsoter) and left for dead. Now a stray, Hagen wanders the streets fruitlessly searching for his owner, only to find himself among a group of other strays who run about the city avoiding the human world that has rejected them.
Large swathes of the first half of this film show Hagen walking through heavy-trafficked streets, moving in and out of the hands of various dog-hating lowlifes. At times, minutes go by without a human on screen. In some ways, Hagen is the main character of the film. He is chased out of a store by a meat cleaver-wielding butcher. He is taken in by a homeless man and sold to a dog fighter for food. He is a slave to the seemingly unrealistic world of the film, a world characterized by its loathing of mutts.
This being said, the dogs Body and Luke are in many ways the lead actors of White God. The story is as much Hagen’s as it is Lili’s. Lili is graced with the engrossing subplot involving a tyrannical band director, but the unfortunately gritty world of dogs is the center of the film. This leaves a lot of screen time dedicated solely to non-humans. And, to the credit of Body, Luke, and their trainers, it works. Pain, aggression, hope, fear. A whole range of emotions is found in Hagen’s body language and movements throughout his transformation from loved pet to forgotten street dog.
White God is about love and lies. It is about freedom and slavery. And, as it progresses, it is a horror film that culminates in something reminiscent of The Birds. There is an originality to its execution that is strikingly apparent but doesn’t take away from the heart of the film. It may lack depth in its human storyline. Some cinematographic choices may be distracting. But the overall takeaway from White God is that it is a brilliantly acted film–particularly by its animal cast–and a spellbinding look into a hellish landscape of inverted power roles.
White God is a revenge flick like no other. It is original, attention-grabbing, and at many times sickening. If it can be stomached, it is certainly worth the watch.
White God is currently streaming on Netflix and can be found on Amazon Instant Video here.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen White God? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)