Film Review

Kornél Mundruczó’s WHITE GOD — A Review by Nick Clement


A few nights ago, I viewed the Hungarian film White God. It affected me so much and on such a personal level that I’ve not been able to accurately summarize my thoughts and feelings concerning all that it covers as a piece of art. What I can say is this: No film this year has gotten to me on an emotional level like the way this one did, and while it’s not going to be a movie for everyone, I urge as many people as possible to seek out this important, brilliant piece of work. Simply put, it’s an uncompromising masterpiece, a film that feels like some sort of miracle, and one that holds an overwhelming sense of power and grandeur by its conclusion, while never forgetting to explore all of the intimate details that make this film truly special. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it, and on a technical level, I can’t even begin to understand how it was achieved. The level of patience involved is staggering to ponder. White God depicts some VERY graphic animal abuse, and if you know me in any-way-shape-or-form from my interactions on the Facebook, you know where I stand on animal abuse and how I feel animal abusers should be dealt with – they should be killed.


For those who are unfamiliar with this blistering motion picture, the devastating narrative follows two separate story-lines, one tracking a mixed-breed dog named Hagen, and the other involving his master, a young girl named Lili. When Lili moves into the apartment of her estranged father, bringing along Hagen, tensions begin to mount, and in a moment of heartless behavior, Lili’s father abandons Hagen after city officials demand that a tax be paid because the dog isn’t a pure-bred. Alone, scared, and confused, Hagen wants nothing more than to be reunited with Lili, and he sets off across the city in an attempt to be reunited. Along the way he’ll be captured by members of an illegal dog fighting organization who abuse and train him to kill, all before escaping, only to be rounded up by the soulless city workers who are more interested in euthanizing rather than helping. And then – enough is enough – Hagen busts loose, rips some people a new one, and attracts a pack of 250 other half-breed canines that start an uprising against anyone who stands in their way. The final moments of White God must be seen to be believed, as the last act of this riveting film is more than outstanding and cathartic.


There are some very, very tough scenes of animal cruelty in this film, all simulated of course, but what occurs in the final third makes the most harrowing of moments worth the punishment. Written and directed with visual elegance, a sense of provocation and extreme visceral intensity by Kornél Mundruczó, White God will be nearly impossible to shake off once you’ve seen it. What’s most sad about this film is that you know this sort of thoughtless behavior is being thrust upon animals that aren’t able to adequately defend themselves, and while the film should probably be treated more as allegory than anything else, it’s a further reminder that how one treats an animal says much about their inner qualities as a person. Marcell Rév’s landmark cinematography is nothing short of awe inspiring; how any number of shots in this film got accomplished I’ll never understand. There’s a primal clarity to the images, and while Rév’s camera never exploits the sad carnage around the edges of the story, he’s not afraid to get up close and personal to a certain type of ugliness that is all too real. This is a film that’s going to be very, very hard for me to stop analyzing and pondering.

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