HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: White God
HTS Overall Score:82
Animal cruelty and mistreatment is something that has been debated and discussed over the years, both on screen and off. Pet owners and people who don’t appreciate pets can all agree that humane treatment of animals that are specifically raised to be by a human’s side is something to strive for, even if you don’t deign to partake in that companionship. However there are many people out there who are not so forward thinking and tend to view pets as “beasts” and somehow not worthy of basic kindness. The news is riddled with tales of abandoned dogs, cats, etc on the side of the road. People get arrested for abusing dogs by leaving them in boiling hot cars, outside in the weather all day with nothing but a thin rope around their neck to keep them in the yard. Kittens are left on leashes and let roam around in the yard because the owner doesn’t want the kitten inside, so said kittens climbs up a branch and accidentally hangs itself on the leash because no one is watching. Dogs are rescued in droves from dog fighting rings where they come with only one eye, lacerations from head to toe and living in their own excrement. If this sounds disturbing, it should, and I’m actually omitting some of the more heinous things I’ve seen when rescuing animals.
Most of us think of pets as something more than a beast. Pets become part of the family, going with us on walks, vacations and many times getting special treatment as our couches and chairs get worn down with scratches before their due date. I have loved pets ever since I can remember and have lived only about 4 years of my life without some form of dog, cat, hamster or rabbit. Right now I have 7 rescued animals, 6 cats and a dog, all of which are almost as much work as having children of my own, so I know well the love that we have for our pets. When “White God” was announced all I caught from the press release was that this was a Hungarian film that was winning awards left and right and was about dogs. I thought, this was a match made in heaven. I love dogs, the movie is about dogs, win-win situation. It wasn’t until much later, after I received the disc to review that I read the full description along with several other reviews on the title and realized that we were dealing with a bit of a bleak story. The movie itself is based off of a Hungarian bill that didn’t pass in their government that would require all non “purebreds” to have a hefty tax levied on them in order to try and discourage people from owning mutts and hopefully “weed them out” due to the overpopulation of dogs on the street. How and WHY anyone thought this was even feasible would make a sane person insane, but thankfully the bill never passed (as it shouldn’t), but in the case of this movie, it did.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50609[/img]12 year old Lili (Zsofia Psotta) is staying with her father (Sander Zsoter) after her mother goes off on a business trip with another man, leaving him with both his daughter and her mixed breed dog, Hagen. Saddled with a daughter whom he loves, but also with a dog that he doesn’t leaves Lili’s dad with a great sense of frustration. To make matters worse his nasty landlord sees the dog upon moving in and reports it as a mutt to animal control. Animal control, of course, shows up and tells him that he will have to pay the tax, after which Daniel (Lili’s father) comes to the decision to just dump Hagen on the side of the road in a heart breaking scene. With Hagen and herself separated, the young girl and the dog have to cope with their situations. In the case of Hagen he soon finds out that not everyone in the world is a loving owner like Lili is. Beaten, abused, kicked and then turned into a fighting dog, Hagen’s worldview changes, as does his temperament. Bit by bit he’s changed into a monster, and soon we’re forced to ask the question. Is the dog a monster, or the people who created him?
Desperately wanting her dog back, Lili sets out on a quest of her own, trying frantically to find her beloved pet. Unfortunately life isn’t a Disney movie and soon enough the crushing weight of the world starts to break her down as well. The last half hour of the film deviates from what one would expect, as that last bit is almost like doggy slasher movie, with Hagen finally throwing off his yoke and rallying the rest of the street dogs to unleash their revenge on the owners and people who have abused them for far too long. I know that sounds bizarre, but on screen it is much less surreal than you would expect.
“White God” is a tough movie to sit through. As a pet lover it was even more so. The violence portrayed was never really on screen, but more implied, but still the implications and the heart wrenching scenes of abandonment took me several takes to watch. As a short film it would have been a tough watch, but at a few minutes past 2 hours it was really hard. By the end I had tears streaming down my face and a desire to go out and do things quite illegal to the people who treated their pets as worthless throwaway items. Even though it was extremely difficult, I felt the watch was very worthwhile, because sometimes it’s necessary to be a little uncomfortable. I love movies where pets are treated right and will smile and laugh at them, but sometimes I need to sit through a reminder that not everyone thinks that way, and hopefully “White God” will aid in people’s perfections of animal cruelty.
Rated R for violent content including bloody images, and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50617[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encode Blu-ray for “White God” is nothing short of spectacular with fantastic detail, and stunning colors. Shot entirely digital, it has a nice and shiny gloss to the image. One that features tons of facial and wide detail, ranging from the blood splatter on Daniel’s shirt, or the dingy apartment he lives in down to the water trickling through the stone streets of Hungary. The camera work is a bit cramped and since it’s handheld tends to be a bit wobbly, but the resulting image is free of any artifacts and the has enough steady shots to maintain a good focus. Black levels are always excellent and shadow detail doesn’t suffer in the slightest. The color palette is a bit dingy, but always very natural as the director decided not to grade the film at all. Lots of pastels and dark, grungy colors are used, making the image look like the tone of the film. A bit bleak and drained. Although moments of Hagen and Lili when they are having fun are represented as being very bright and full of cheery greens.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50625[/img]The only track on the disc is the original 5.1 DTS-HD MA Hungarian track, and it is just as good as the video is. Vocals are crisp and clear without any distortion or balance issues and the front sound stage is excellent. There is a lot of dialog in the movie, so expect that to be front and center, but the surrounds always have some form of activity to keep them busy from the busy Hungarian streets, to the snapping of dogs jaws in a fight and even a hefty club scene where we get some really intense bass lines. The LFE itself is never anemic as it is used with ominous effect to accentuate the dread feeling of something happening to the poor dogs and even a few explosive moments that really dig deep.
• Behind the Scenes Featurrette
Supposedly the film used 280 different dogs for the creation and not a single one of them was harmed in the making of. To top it off, every single one of them was adopted out to loving families at the end of filming in an effort raise animal cruelty awareness. While I can’t say that I would give the film a resounding ovation, as it ran a bit too long and could use some trimming, but I appreciated what I saw on screen. I also don’t know if I can give this a blatant recommendation either, as it’s a TOUGH film to get through, but I can honestly say that it was very well done, and if you’re interested in the material, you will not be disappointed (just bring about 5 boxes of Kleenex, you’ll need every one of them).
Starring: Zsófia Psotta, Sándor Zsótér, Lili Horváth
Directed by: Kornél Mundruczó
Written by: Kornél Mundruczó, Viktória Petrányi
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Hungarian: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Runtime: 121 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 28th 2015
Buy White God On Blu-ray at Amazon
More about Mike