Every dog has it’s day. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Dogs are a man’s best friend. Let sleeping dogs lie. You lay with dogs and you wake up with fleas. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
We use these sayings in everyday life, and re-appropriate them to our lives. We have forgotten the true origins of these maxims, but the allegorical White God (“Fehér Isten“) reminds us why they still apply to dogs, and how some of them change when they are pushed to extremes.
Hagen (Body & Luke) is your average pet. He has grown attached to his human Lili (Zsófia Psotta), who feeds him, cares for him, and even plays music for him to fall asleep to. That is all uprooted when he and his human are forced to move in with the human’s father Dániel (Sándor Zsótér). Dániel works at a meat processing factory, where he makes sure the quality of the meat is up to code. Surrounded by the inherent brutality and carnage of the meat industry, he is starting to become desensitized and unsympathetic towards animals. That explains why he was unwilling to pay the fee for having Hagen stay with him, since Hagen is a mixed breed dog. Against a very distraught Lili’s wishes, Dániel leaves Hagen in the middle of nowhere with no way back home and without the street savvy to get by. He quickly becomes part of a stray dog collective, but the dog catchers come in droves, scattering them all to the wind.
He finds momentary safety in the company of a homeless man on the street, who he thinks may be a kindred spirit in as far as sharing being society’s unwanted. He is proven wrong when the homeless man sells him to a dog fighting operation, and Hagen is forced to become a trained killer. After winning his first fight, and taking his first canine life, he is able to escape in a guilt-guided frenzy. He meets up with the remnants of his canine collective, only to be rounded up by the same dog catchers. He is set to be put to sleep, but manages to escape, will a man, and frees all of his other compatriots on doggy death row. Together they exact revenge on a society that has constantly persecuted them, imprisoned them, and killed them all for their own amusement. Hagen has had enough.
The canines in this film displayed a range that some actors haven’t been able to accomplish to this day. Especially Body and Luke who played the leader dog Hagen. The highest praise I can give them is by saying that they were very good boys and deserve a huge treat; possibly an award. The human actors performed aptly as well, but the emphasis was placed on the dogs and their treatment, making the humans only secondary. Well, secondary in the film’s focus, but primary when it came to the dog horde’s choice in chew toys. The film is very moralistic, with every villain and wrong-doer getting vengeance exacted on them that would make a Korean revenge film blush. It was brutal and gory, but necessary to get the film’s harsh message across.
Screenwriter/director Kornél Mundruczó makes the parabolic nature of this film obvious, even if the message isn’t clear. The message is ambiguous but only because it could be adopted by any struggle where there is an insurmountable power oppressing an underdog group. Socioeconomic, political, racial–you name it. The film could represent any of these or none of them. It is very vague that way, which is a double-edged sword in itself. It has a sharp message that can be applied to many movements and injustices, but because it isn’t’ completely specific, it can come lose some of its teeth as a biting metaphor. One thing that didn’t live up to the tension-mounting momentum of the film was the end, where it showed us that music has charms to soothe the savage beast. The rebel, revolutionary spirit inside every animal was quelled in the end when the animals resigned to their fate: execution. The feeling of futility at the end of the film reminded me of the outcome of the barricade battles during the French Revolution, where it all ends in death. In the French revolution, those events were more of the catalyst of the revolution than the revolution itself, so maybe we’re suppose to take the underdog uprising as the same.
White God has all the moralistic themes and allegorical elements to make the film evergreen when applied to almost any social, political or socio-economic conflict. The quality of the canine choreography and acting is beyond reproach, even when compared to the skillful performances on the human side. An added side effect of this film is that you will want to go immediately home and give that special pet in your life a big treat. Maybe even invest in a jugular guard or two.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★(9/10 stars)