REVIEW: White God

4 05 2015

White GodIn “White God,” co-writer/director Kornel Mundruzco pulls one of the most ingenious bait-and-switch act to shame bigots everywhere.  Though his film may have deep roots in the Hungarian sociopolitical situation, it speaks to any group anywhere who must endure oppression or marginalization.  (Which, last time I checked, is still pretty much everywhere.)

When seeking to gin up support for policies that disenfranchise groups, politicians and pundits often use coded language that persuades citizens that such people are less than human – or even animals.  Vitriol in Europe towards immigrant populations seeking favorable economic conditions is currently reaching somewhat of a fever pitch in the wake of austerity measures.  The United States hardly performs better in this regard, with a congressman explicitly comparing immigrants to dogs in a town hall and refusing to back down on his comments.

Mundruzco takes this brand of rhetoric and subverts it, turning the victims of discrimination in Hungary into characters who are literally subhuman: adorable, lovable dogs.  Hagen, the canine protagonist of “White God,” finds himself on the streets when the apathetic single father of his owner, Lili (Zsófia Psotta), chooses to throw him out of a car rather than pay a “mongrel” fee to keep a non-pure bred Hungarian dog.  Left to fend for himself, the good-natured pup gets hardened by the hatred directed his way.

White God Hagen

We frequently turn a blind eye to the fringes of society and the beggars on the street, but “White God” proves impossible to ignore.  By sabotaging the epithet of “mutt” and dog-whistle politics on the whole, Mundruczo invites sympathy to pariahs rather than denying it to them.  His film provides a brilliant, shining example of how to employ the power of cinematic imagination to better comprehend and face the real world.

Astoundingly, he achieves all this staggering commentary without resorting to anthropomorphizing the canine crew.  (In fact, Mundruczo used all real dogs for every scene.)  “White God” beats “Homeward Bound” at its own game, all before turning in a raucous, rabble-rousing finale.  In its final act, the film combines the politically tinged action of “Planet of the Apes” series with the abject terror of Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” making for one unforgettable fable that jolts our capacity for empathy like few others works before it.  A-3halfstars

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