UK DVD Release Date: 3rd August 2015
Director: Kornel Mondruczo
Producer: Viktoria Petranyi
Starring: Zsofia Psotto, Sandor Zsoter, Lilli Horvath, Luke / Body as “Hagen”
Runtime: 117 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Released through Metrodome Distribution
“Everything terrible is something that needs our love.”
So the first frame of ‘White God’ tells us, effectively setting the theme of the piece – the creatures we find under our stewardship look to us for physical and emotional sustenance in return for whatever assistance or companionship they provide, and this film from ‘Delta’ and ‘Tender Son’ director Kornel Mondruczo ponders how badly the worm may possibly turn should we not ‘treat as we would be treated’.
This Hungarian-Swedish-German co-production centres around 13 year old Lili (Psotto) and her beloved dog Hagen, a faithful Lab / Shar Pei cross breed who unfortunately finds himself living in a time when Hungary has begun imposing a new dog ownership law that outlaws the keeping of mixed breed mutts, levying a heavy fine on anyone found housing one. Lili’s father Daniel is dead against having Hagen in his apartment, which Lili is reluctantly staying in whilst her mother is away on business. The two clash over the matter and despite Lili’s obvious devotion to her canine pal, Daniel eventually sets Hagen loose on a nearby motorway.
Distraught, Lili searches tirelessly for him, little knowing that he is to be passed fleetingly through a handful of new masters, all planning to use him for their own ends – and so begins the animal’s transformation from softie to savage, a process which the viewer can only hope will be reversed by the eventual return to his young mistress.
‘White God’ in many ways follows the themes of other animal-centred horror classics such as ‘The Birds’ and ‘Cujo’ – the menace of the ever-increasing ‘pack’ of stray dogs Hagen befriends and the metamorphosis of Hagen over time will put viewers in mind of both, but the film is not as gore-heavy as it could easily have let itself be and although tense moments are there, the overall feel is understated rather than overblown.
The acting is of a good quality too, with newcomer Zsofia Psotto giving a passive yet powerful performance in the lead role, and indeed the canine interaction is something to behold. Mondruczo’s action shots of all the (many!) dogs are brilliantly done, most notably when the pack escapes the animal shelter and brings chaos upon the city, and kudos must be given to the animal handlers involved as the action involving the four-legged actors is convincingly choreographed and presented.
Whilst Psotto engages the viewer through Lili’s struggles with teen isolation, there are moments of real tension and some outrage at Hagen’s situation as he is physically modified, tormented and ultimately brutalised within the distinctly ugly underworld of illegal dog-fighting – incidentally, as one might imagine, this one is a tough watch for any dog lovers out there (although there is nothing too graphic shown)!
On the other hand, it’s also maybe not one for any canine-phobic viewers – Hagen and his comrades as one force are rather unsettling and there is some bloody comeuppance for the humans who have abused them. However, if you’re someone to whom neither of the above apply then you should find ‘White God’ a worthy watch – visually it’s very enjoyable (the final frame is a beauty) and the acting and direction showcase a high level of talent, with hopefully more of the same to come from both, overall serving up an intriguing and memorable film for the horror enthusiast and general film buff alike.