*Features plot discussion* Trailer Time: White God
“Everything terrible is something that needs our love.” -Rainer Maria Rilke
Simply, White God is a rousing story about the hardships of a girl and her canine companion; both are vulnerable, both are mistreated, both are lost. Lili (Zsófia Psotta) is forced to leave her dog, Hagen (portrayed by twins Luke and Body), alone on the streets of Budapest. Lili’s beautiful, intelligent, majestic, loyal Hagen is persecuted and mistreated for his impure breeding.
Yet, White God is much more than that. The parallel lives of Lili and Hagen act as a blatant allegory about Hungarian politics, past and present. The most obvious hint of this is to Eastern Europe’s troubled past involving ethnic cleansing, which continues to be relevant in the politics of the present day. As the mistreated rise up with a collective mass consciousness, seizing that which had been taken from them, one cannot help but see the strong political reflections. The film can also be seen as one debating animal cruelty, whilst simultaneously highlighting the mistreatment of minorities, national or otherwise. The film has ties to the likes of District 9, in terms of persecution and intolerance, and deals with these issues more than admirably.
The film’s story itself is intensely moving. There is a palpable emotion that never leaves the picture, leaving you on the edge of tears for much of the two hour run-time. Be it in the strained family relationship or those when Hagen is being mistreated, one has to desperately cling to the little hope White God affords us. This hope mostly comes through the eyes of the dogs themselves. In them we see the hurt and fear and anguish placed upon them, but we also see a burning fight and courage in them too. The dogs harbour an unrelenting resilience against this oppression and a relentless will to be free.
The logistics of co-ordinating the 274 dogs, all of whom are mixed breeds adopted from animal shelters, boggles the mind. This must have been a huge challenge and White God is a triumph in the circumstances. Also, the scope of story is ambitious to say the least. Kornél Mundruczó and company tell several stories on top of the friendship and fable elements, and these are largely satisfied. The dirty underworld of dog-fighting is touched upon and so is the ruthless nature of animal shelters. These provide very emotive and at times visually disturbing scenes, in film that is not always easy to watch. A Hungarian Marley and Me, this is not.
This wide scope provides its problems and leaves some largely forgivable flaws. There are issues with the quick shifts in tone and the human acting is distinctly average. The performances of the dogs however, is more than satisfactory. The excellent direction portrays such impassioned communication, such as in the deepness of the animals’ eyes and the simple flickering of a depressed ear. These animals and the emotion they are shot with are the film’s greatest success.
It’s emotive nature isn’t always easy to watch, but White God takes us on an important, unique journey that I implore each of you to be a part of. A man in front of me in the screening said: “That was either a masterpiece, or shit” and I would argue it is much, much closer to the former.
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