Kornél Mundruczó’s new drama White God is a self-professed ‘’genre experiment’’ and unquestionably a metaphor for social inequality and revolution. 13-year-old Lili is forced to watch her beloved dog, Hagen, abandoned on the road by her father. New laws favouring purebred dogs impose a high tax on mixed-breeds, resulting in a mass mutt-dumping. The dogs are left to roam the streets and avoid the dogcatchers.
Devastated by her loss, Lili goes in search of Hagen, without regard for personal safety or social alienation. However, this is not your usual “pet returns home against all odds” story. With moments of horror, tension and dark comedy, White God is sure to be the most original film you will see this year. Honestly acted and beautifully shot, the director has ignored the old adage “never work with animals (or children)” and has chosen to work with 274 of the beasts.
Though the film is a moral allegory, it stands on its own feet as a story about a girl and her dog. What a pleasure to see a film featuring dogs that does not centre on unrealistic, Disney-esque principles: the mutts do not form one sympathetic family, curl up on 274 rugs and sleep happily ever after in front of the fire. Instead, the film portrays the harsh reality of how dogs that show any form of aggression (often as a result of fear or former abusive treatment) will be euthanised while at the shelter.
The Hungarian director believes that “superiority has truly become the privilege of white Western civilization.” This belief, together with influence of Samuel Fuller’s 1982 drama White Dog (the 1982 drama/horror on similar themes), led to the enigmatic title.
Coming of age is poignantly explored as a secondary theme. It provides temporary relief from the search-and-chase scenes, which are spectacular in their organisation, though Mundruczó claims there were ”no problems whatsoever” in working with such a large number of dogs. Despite moments of cartoonish gore, the scenes where dogs congregate en masse are breathtaking. An unexpected ending leaves the viewer with hope for a more understanding future.
White God is released nationwide on 27th February 2015.
Watch the trailer for White God here: