There are premises in movies that don’t always work. Then again, there are premises that work in the beginning but eventually fall apart. The new Hungarian drama White God is one of the latter and while it is fine from a stylistic standpoint, the plot itself is pretty ludicrous. In fact, it’s so silly that it pretty much borders on moronic. This is a film that could have been great but it takes a downward spiral in pretty unfortunate territory. If you are interested in fine Hungarian cinema then this film is not it. The only reason might be if you are a dog lover because this movie has lots of those.
White God follows Lili (Zsofia Psotta), a young girl who moves in with her stern somewhat estranged father Daniel (Sandor Zsoter). She is emotionally attached to Hagel, a mixed-breed dog but when Daniel refuses to pay a government “mongrel” fine to keep Hagel, Daniel is forced to throw the dog out on the street. Lost and unsure of how he’s going to survive, Hagel ends up in some rather precarious situations involving a butcher, underground dog fights and eventually links up with a large group of other street dogs. The film turns from heartfelt drama to brutal thriller quickly as the street dogs band together and strike back against all of the humans (one by one) who have wronged them.
With strong similarities to Planet of the Apes, White God is about as corny as it gets and this is a real shame because the relationship between Lili and Hagel is actually really sweet and tender. If only writer/director Kornel Mundruczo (Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project, Delta) sustained that positive energy for the rest of the film, then we might have had something. Sadly though, the killer dog premise dominates the picture and we are given rather graphic death scenes and implausible scenario after implausible scenario. Epic music is missing from the final scenes where we see hoards of canines thirsty for revenge. Another highlight would be cinematographer Marcell Rev (Land of Storms, Here I Am), whose unique camera angles and shots add a touch of class to the proceedings.
Some saving graces would have to be the acting from the humans. Newcomer Zsofia Psotta shows great range as a young girl separated from the dog she loves. These two share a bond that is so beautiful that it is a real pity it wasn’t explored further in the film. Sandor Zsoter (Heavenly Shift, Toredek) is also pretty terrific as the father who wants nothing to do with Hagel. This disregard for the creature’s life is mean, nasty and downright cruel all so he can save a little bit of money. His character and Lili have an interesting relationship, it’s flawed, awkward and full of resentment, perfect for on screen drama.
All in all, White God suffers from a serious lack of identity. The drama portions don’t mix with the thriller elements resulting in two films, one (the latter) which sadly overpowers the former. Those seeking a lukewarm and genuine family story, watch the first 40 minutes or so because after that, all there is is mindless violence and a premise that painfully goes nowhere.