Sunday, 2 August 2015

White God / Feher Isten (2015)

Hungary’s unique, affecting and multi-layered contribution to the “When Animals Attack” subgenre gets its UK DVD release from Metrodome after touring the independent cinema circuit earlier this year.

Thirteen year old Lili (Zsofia Psotta) loves her mongrel dog Hagen. When her mother goes off with her new lover for three months, Lili has to go and live with her dog-disliking father in his dog-unfriendly flat. While Lili does everything she can to keep Hagen (including being thrown out of the school orchestra in the process), her father eventually leaves the dog by the roadside.

Here Hagen’s adventures proper begin as he enters the seamy underworld of dog fights. He manages to escape, but not before he’s been turned into a fighting machine capable of winning a fight to the death against a Rottweiler. Captured by the city dog patrol, he ends up at the pound, where eventually he incites a doggy riot that results in the city being over-run by canines. Will Lili find Hagen again? And how will he react to her now that he considers humans to be the enemy of all dogs?

WHITE GOD has been compared to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. While it’s easy to see why, the clue to the film’s real backbone lies in its title, a clever play on the classic Sam Fuller movie WHITE DOG (1982) in which Kristy McNichol comes across a stray white German shepherd that, it turns out, has been trained by a racist to attack blacks. In WHITE GOD, Hagen is trained to become less a well-rounded animal than a fighting machine, and the parallels with the dehumanising process of creating human soldiers are there for all to see.

What’s most interesting about WHITE GOD, however, is the climax of the film. Has Hagen’s horrific experience allowed him to transcend in an almost MARTYRS-like way to achieve a level of intelligence higher than that of other dogs? Is there a moral here, that through adversity will come triumph - but only for a few? Is it in fact an allegory for the entire history of Hungary? Probably not. In fact that’s probably reading too much into it. But the racial subtext early on (mongrels are despised - only ‘pure’ breeds are considered worth owning) and numerous other references suggest there’s a lot more going on in WHITE GOD than just a simple clever-beast-leads-his-people-to-salvation story. You can read it like that as well, of course.

The movie itself is stunningly made, with superb use made of about a hundred dogs all expertly trained to do their thing. Metrodome’s DVD has a 17 minute behind the scenes piece as part of its extras which tells lots about how the dog actors fulfilled their roles. There are also a few deleted scenes, at least one of which it’s rather odd that it didn’t turn up in the finished print.
        Original, affecting, and superbly made, WHITE GOD deserves a wider audience. You know what to do. 

Metrodome are releasing WHITE GOD on Region 2 DVD on 
3rd August 2015

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