Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Favoring pedigree dogs, a new regulation puts a severe tax on mixed breeds. Owners dump their dogs and shelters become overcrowded. 13-year-old Lili fights desperately to protect her pet Hagen, but her father eventually sets the dog free on the streets. Hagen and his pretty master search desperately for each other until Lili loses faith. Struggling to survive, homeless Hagen realizes that not everyone is a dog’s best friend. Hagen joins a gang of stray dogs, but is soon captured and sent to the pound. With little hope inside there, the dogs will seize an opportunity to escape and revolt against mankind. Their revenge will be merciless. Lili may be the only one who can halt this unexpected war between man and dog.
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★★★★½ review by Josh Larsen on Letterboxd
Shortly before the bonkers climax of White God, a few impounded dogs alertly watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon called “The Cat Concerto” on a television set in their pen. Tom plunks away at Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, as the dogs sit in rapt attention. It’s a darkly funny moment – especially given the carnage about to ensue – and also a perfect encapsulation of the movie’s aesthetic. A thrillingly wild mixture of high art and low, White God cheekily comments on how we often hide behind civilized culture to mask our basest natures.
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★★★★½ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd
I remember seeing him at first in a blur. Scurrying around with no sense of direction, the puppy ran towards me with indescribable joy and love, and he acted the same for anyone who even slightly glanced towards his direction. Our family named him Louie, and ever since that singular day, we were inseparable. Running, playing, watching STAR WARS; we did everything together. And when friends came into the mix, everyone loved him. I don't think I ever came across a person who shrugged Louie off like he was just another random dog (well, there's no such thing as a random dog, but you get it). He was this special burst of energy, a lovely mix of rambling insanity and endearing sweetness.
Last year, when he passed away, was exceedingly tough. No offense, but if a dog hasn't been in your life, then the idea is almost incomprehensible. A dog's love and connection with his best friend (truly an apt description) is like the world in miniature, moving and evolving and endlessly changing even though you never notice. Losing a dog is like a sudden gasp for air within the vast emptiness above. You know it's no use to cry, for they are already gone, but you still reach out and shed a tear anyway. All you really want is another day. Another day to watch STAR WARS together, another day of squirrel and rabbit searching, another day of companionship.
Now, the memories are bittersweet, and although I still miss him, I'm content on where I am and wherever he may be. As strange as it may seem, those memories seep back into my current world every day, enriching and expanding the richness of those foggy glimpses. I've even noticed the arrival of memories of Louie sprouting up during multiple cinematic viewings, and with Kornél Mundruczó's White God, never has this experience been so achingly relevant.
Being both a profound story of connection between human and canine as well as a startling subversion of horrific and comedic tropes; White God is one of the most emotional cinematic experiences that I've ever had. Social, societal, human, and of course, dog issues are tackled with a mesmerizing amount of intimacy and generous heart, propelling this unique work into a realm of cinematic ecstasy and overwhelming potency.
The performances by both the human and canine actors are personal and hauntingly realized, but the true standout is the two dogs used to portray Hagen, the main pooch in the film. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that the dogs' performances in this role are truly staggering. One of the all-time great screen presences, human or otherwise.
Gliding between an off-kilter coming of age tale and a strange odyssey of truth, fear, revenge, and companionship; White God works because of its complete rebellion against straightforward plotting. The meandering pace wondrously succeeds along with the tonal shifts that highlight different ranges of comedy, horror, and adventure. By the end, I felt as if I was exhilarated, stunned, outraced, and tired all at once.
Hagen is Louie. Louie is Hagen. The representation of the bond builds and explodes onto the screen like a mushroom of bewildering heartbreak, and for a moment during the film, I felt like Louie was here with me. Watching and sitting, looking at the trials and tribulations of Hagen, and just like me, connecting and empathizing. Looking at the screen not for distraction or diversion, but for warmth and compassion.
Describing or even recommending this film to another person feels strange, mainly because White God, in spite of all its immense veracity and groundbreaking spirit, IS a strange beast. It seems that it hasn't worked for others, but oh man did it work for me. If cinema is a constant trigger for memory and the candidness within, then White God just won.
★★★★½ review by Jordan Rowe on Letterboxd
"White God" is a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Its brilliance is in its simplicity, establishing a core emotional relationship between a young girl and her dog. They more time they spend apart, the more we feel for both of them. It takes great directing skill to make an audience care about a character that doesn't say a word the entire time, and Kornél Mundruczó does so with flying colors.
★★★★ review by Jared on Letterboxd
Part of 2015 Ranked
Last month, my family and I had to say goodbye to Jada, my first dog.
Jada was introduced into our family when I was six years old, and was my best friend through all the formative years of my adolescence. We had epic battles with Star Wars action figures in my room together, played endless games of basketball and soccer together, got into shape by shared runs and got out of shape together in slews of laziness. As I grew to appreciate film more, we'd watch films together until five in the morning, sharing snacks and inevitably falling asleep together each time. After every break up with a girlfriend, I'd find solace in Jada. As I grew up, I left and joined friend groups at various schools, but Jada was always there. If I had a fight with my parents, Jada was there. She was my constant; my never ending source of comfort, happiness, companionship, and acceptance in the tumultuous years of middle and high school. It's a cliche, I know. The whole idea that dogs are always happy to see you, always looking to spend some time with you no matter the minuscule amount of reciprocation you provide in turn. That they give and give and give, and only ask for occasional attention in return. You hear your whole life that dogs are relatively mentally simplistic animals, and they are dominated largely by instinct and sensory cues. You hear that connections are fleeting, shallow, and guided by the evolutionary desire to simply exist.
You hear all these bittersweet facts and figures, and you swear they're wrong. I will swear until the day I die that Jada grew along side me, that she knew me, understood me, and felt a legitimate connection to me. When I was down, she knew. When I was in a state of elation, she knew. We grew together, and she remains, even in death, the single most important connection I have made aside from the obvious mother and father. I never really knew how important she was to me until she wasn't there to greet me by the door anymore. A vast gap had been left in my life, and I still don't know what will fill it. I had no way of thanking her for all the joy we had shared, turmoil she helped me through, and sheer companionship she had provided me, without hesitation, for 12 years. The connection that can be formed between a dog and it's owner can indeed be profound, more profound than anything I had ever felt before. This connection is so hard to articulate, so hard to put into words that it often seems impossible to even try.
White God, better than any film I have seen, capture the depth that can be found in this relationship. There is a plethora of rich symbolism and visual contrasts to be had here, illustrating the true beauty that can be found in the connection between a simple dog and his/her owner. It's an aggressive and ambitious statement of appalling cruelty and glorious loyalty that probably alienates the majority of viewers of this film.
This is the sole merit of the film. If I were a legitimate critic, I would give the film two and a half stars at most. The acting is often appalling, the message overbearing, and the narrative played too straight to buy into. It's premise is ridiculous, which doesn't inherently mean it should be received as such. However, the film is too somber and melancholic to fully buy into it's eccentricities, rendering the finished product a bit silly in retrospect. It's absolutely overly long, and unforgivably meanders for a solid thirty minutes. Most significantly though, is the uninteresting human narrative. The actress driving it is shallow, and it's characters are too aggressive, violent, and unrealistic to be taken seriously. It almost seems exploitative of the climate of animal abuse currently visible in today's world. It's too aggressive of a portrait of the problem to inspire a solution.
But the sheer incredible film making on display in the canine-driven narrative warrants a watch alone, not to mention the wonderfully captured connection that can develop between dog and owner. It's a film that relates in a powerful way to me alone, allowing me to overlook it's flaws to appreciate it's triumphs. The film functions as well, as a comment on our asserted superiority over those we share the earth with, focusing on the negative implications alone. It could also be a look at how we hide behind our "civilized" ways to mask our more basic instincts.
To end this nostalgia riddled ramble, I want to both feature a quote from and recommend one of my favorite novels of all time, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The quote is from a dog named Enzo, who aspires to return in his "next life" as a man, and experience true friendship with his owner Denny not as a dog, but as a man.
"“When I return to the world, I will be a man. I will walk among you. I will lick my lips with my small, dexterous tongue. I will shake hands with other men, grasping firmly with my opposable thumbs. And I will teach all people that I know. And when I see a man or a woman or a child in trouble, I will extend my hand, both metaphorically and physically. I will offer my hand. To him. To her. To you. To the world. I will be a good citizen, a good partner in the endeaver of life that we all share.”
Read the book. If you are, or ever have been, a dog owner, it will leave you in tears and affect to you in a profound way, I guarantee it. It's the most honest and beautiful depiction of what I felt with Jada, and has proven, despite it's substantial cheese and oversentimentality, to remain one of the most affecting novels I have ever read.
Based on my observations of Jada's taste, I don't think she would've liked the film. She was more of a Paul Thomas Anderson kind of dog(Boogie Nights to be specific).
★★★★ review by Blain LaMotta on Letterboxd
White God is eccentric coming of age cinema filtered through the horrors of canine rebellion. Suppressing our animal instincts to become a cultured, productive member of society is a constant battle, for that dangerous part of us cannot be killed, only tamed. The exploitation of animals only further adds to this complicated conundrum. Issues of class warfare and military force could also be read into. It is all wrapped around a strong emotional core due to the evolving father/daughter/dog relationship. Thrilling stuff, with a wondrous final shot to match. Whether it remains focused enough throughout the entire picture is another story, but I was willing to mostly overlook it after the explosive, thought-provoking finish.
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