White God Blu-ray Review
The Hungarian film, WHITE GOD (Feher isten), follows a young girl named Lili (Zsófia Psotta) and her dog Hagen (played by two dogs, Luke and Body). The product of divorced parents, Lili is sent to stay with her father for a while. Due to some terrible communication, Lili’s father was not aware she was bringing her well-behaved dog. Due to some extremely minor frustrations brought on by the unreasonably cranky father, he throws Hagen out on the streets – an unforgivable offense in this writer’s eyes. The lovable Hagen goes on an adventure that is darker than most dog films before it. After a series of abusive human owners, Hagen turns the tables. With the help of an absurd amount of pound freed canines, Hagen seeks out all those who personally wronged him, becoming Benji with a vengeance – this time it’s personal.
WHITE GOD is the result of BENJI taking a cue from THE BIRDS and PLANET OF THE APES before ultimately becoming JOHN WICK. While that idea might sound cool to some, it’s important to note that WHITE GOD does not execute on near the level of any of those films named.
The ambitious attempt of making a film focused on a dog deserves some credit. The fact that WHITE GOD manages beautiful shots involving what appears to be hundreds of dogs is a feat worth high praise. The musical score and visuals are at time quite striking with empty streets and abandoned city life. Sadly the rest of the film’s content is unable to move past mediocrity.
The idea of a b-horror film in the capacity of the story doesn’t sound too bad, but WHITE GOD seems to take itself a bit too seriously in a reality that doesn’t quite exist. Obviously one has to suspend belief and the film doesn’t shy away from the surreal nature mixing comedy and sadness. However, it never goes far enough with that plan only giving tastes then abandoning its strategy for a more direct narrative, which bogs down the already frustrating story. The human characters are unlikable and I actively rooted against the father/daughter relationship, rather than mending it. Clearly director Kornél Mundruczó is creating humans as the villain and the animals as the victims. I appreciate, respect and in some ways agree with this concept. However, there seems to be a sense of sympathy for the people by the end of the film without ever bridging that gap.
It’s tough to get past the little things (a little girl drinking liquor for the first time with no reaction to the taste) that are easier to overlook if the rest of the film is engaging. While Lili clearly loves her dog and does attempt looking for it with the bigger issue being her relationship with her father and an odd subplot involving her music class, I couldn’t help but think of BILLY MADISON (paraphrased) – “You get your butt out there and find that freakin dog!”
Animal lovers may ultimately get behind this film and will be happy to know that all the dogs used in the film were rescued mixed breeds who were unharmed without the use of CGI. Those afraid of subtitles in a foreign film can take comfort in the minimal dialogue due to following a dog the majority of the time. While I too am an animal lover, I’m also a film lover. And the problems with WHITE GOD are too glaring to overlook. It never quite goes far enough as the humans comeuppance wasn’t nearly as satisfying after witnessing the abusive behavior Hagen had to endure at the hands of them. Ultimately the frustrations were too thick and the payoff wasn’t enough, making the film better described than executed.
Video: (MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p 2.39:1) The picture looks great with plenty of visually stunning shots.
Audio: (Hungarian: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is also good but sometimes noticeable when using some of the dog sounds, which I’m sure was very difficult achievement in itself.
Behind the Scenes of White God (17:17): Interviews with many of the people involved with the film subtitled in English reveal how the film got started. The answer was pretty basic with the director simply wanting to make a film with dogs. A lot of behind the scenes dealing with the difficulty and logistics working with so many dogs.
Interview with Writer/Director Kornel Mundruczo (14:42): He speaks in English explains many of the thought and influences making the film and how it has affected him afterwards.
Interview with Animal Coordinator/Technical Advisor Teresa Ann Miller (4:43): The main dog trainer speaks about her work on the film.