Thirteen-year-old Lili fights to protect her dog Hagen. She is devastated when her father eventually sets Hagen free on the streets. Still innocently believing love can conquer any difficulty, Lili sets out to find her dog and save him.
A cautionary tale between a superior species and its disgraced inferior - 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. Written by
The opening and closing shots of White God are beautiful and powerful realizations of Director Kornél Mundruczó's allegorical horror/thriller vision. Unfortunately, much of the movie does not meet this lofty ideal.
White God tells the story of Lili who is forced by her hard-hearted father to leave her dog, Hagen, on the streets to fend for himself. As Hagen falls into a cycle of abuse and abandonment, Lili becomes more independent and forgets about him. Hagen retaliates against his human oppressors by leading his fellow shelter-dogs in an apocalyptic revolution.
Let's get one thing out of the way first: the fact that this movie was shot entirely with real dogs and practical effects is simply masterful. The angry canine horde is the most terrifying group of animals since The Birds, but Mundruczó works very hard to keep the audience sympathetic towards them. Animal Trainer Teresa Ann Miller deserves some sort of award for convincingly training over 200 dogs to convey such a wide breadth of emotion. Although I cringed seeing scenes of abuse and dog-fighting, "they were always happy, and just playing," said Mundruczó to Fangoria magazine.
Unfortunately, the acting of the dogs is by far the best acting in the movie. The actress who plays Lili does this annoying pursed-lip thing that will make you want to smack her through the screen. Lili's father remains a contemptible a** to the very end. Even the evil dog trainer, despite having the most well-scripted character, couldn't be more two-dimensional if he had a mustache to twirl.
To make matters worse, the only parts of the movie that are any good are those with Hagen. Lili's story is droll beyond belief and just feels like a distraction from Hagen. I wish that I could have read this movie as an allegory about man's abuse of animals or as a metaphor for how easily the middle class forget about the poor. Unfortunately, the tediousness of Lili's story, which was obviously written in after Hagen's, kept distracting me from the movie's emotional and philosophical core. When the movie should have been showing similarities between Lili and Hagen, it often simply drove their stories further apart.
Now, don't get me wrong, this was definitely a "good" movie. I would consider it required viewing for fans of horror and suspense. As a dog-lover, Hagen's story really hit the emotional nail on the head. Mundruczó's ambitious vision is, in itself, highly commendable. It is unfortunate that a few poor directorial choices kept this movie from becoming the masterpiece it deserved to be.
Maybe an American remake will fix some of these problems? Probably not...
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