It’s always a pleasant surprise when a movie makes you stand up and pay attention, almost like a dog would looking for a treat. A fitting metaphor, since White God is an electrically gripping story about beast taking control back from man, and it is one that we simply can’t look away from.
Lili (Zsófia Psotta) is your average 13 year old girl and she isn’t very happy when she is sent to live with her father for three months while her mother is out of town working. Her father (Sándor Zsótér) loves her but is a very gruff man and had even less tolerance for her dog, Hagen. In fact his entire building doesn’t like dogs and one day in a fit of rage when she runs away and he finds her, he sets Hagen off into the wilderness to fend for himself. Still naive and hoping against all hope that she can find her dog, she combs the city looking for him and gets into a fair bit of trouble in the process, meanwhile Hagen is off on his own adventure but he gets taken to some very dark places with people who have nothing for distain for him. However, when Hagen & Lili meet again the tables will have turned in a way that she or anyone else would have ever expected.
A revenge thriller for PETA, White God settles you into the one story and it slowly morphs into this other amazing tale that will hit you on every level as it builds towards its climax.
Co-Writer and Director Kornél Mundruczó pulls a rather effective bait and switch as this story of divorce and an emotionally broken home ends up evolving into a gripping revenge thriller that even borders on the line of being a horror film. The narrative flows with a genuine ease from beginning to end and when our heroine and canine protagonists get separated is when the things really start to build. They both have a downward spiral but we are invested in the characters equally which is a rare thing, since it’s not like the dog had any lines. The more Hagen gets in peril, the more we are rooting for him, in spite of the horrible and occasionally ridiculous things that these dogs do and because we are invested emotionally with it all, it lets us over look anything a little silly that needed to happen to move the story along. Imagine a Disney movie with dogs…but just a lot more blood and violence, it’s not always easy to see but terribly vital to the overall experience.
Zsófia Psotta as Lili does a wonderful job walking that fine line between not yet a woman and no longer a kid as she rebels against her father in hopes of being reunited with her dog. However with the exception of her father played by Sándor Zsótér the only other characters that we connect to are the dogs. With segments lasting for several minutes we see this dog Hagen, tackle some simple tasks like crossing a busy highway and finding something to eat, we worry for him when he is being chased by the dog catcher and with sympathize with him when he is being trained for dog fighting. So when we get to the someone ridiculous emotional leap of this dog leading a revolution against this small city that seemingly doesn’t like dogs, we buy it hook, line and sinker as we are cheering for the dogs, and quite a bit by that point. While it has moments that hint at Hitchcock’s The Birds it never goes into it full throttle as these dogs aren’t ravenous killing machines, they are just pissed at humanity and are sick of taking their shit.
Ultimately, a remarkable effort as White God draws us into what is ultimately a simple world but we get emotionally affected by every twist and turn in it. A mixture of presence, grace and downright scary execution.