Tuesday, August 11, 2015

White God Review

White God Review
I will never forget the day when my girlfriend texted me a picture of a half-Yorkshire Terrier, half-Maltese puppy. I won't forget it because on that summer, as I stared at my phone on my break of selling electronics at Wal-Mart, the dog I was looking at was going to ours. As apart of her present from graduating college, my girlfriend got a puppy, what she's always wanted. For the past three-ish years, Charlie has been ours. I have grown up with many dogs in my family's house before, but Charlie felt special because he belonged to us. I didn't have to share him with my parents or my brother, he is my girlfriends and he is mine. I have always loved all dogs, and finally help completely take care of one has only reinforced my love for these animals. I think these animals are amazing, they help rescue lives, they serve our country, they help cops capture criminals, they are are able to do what seems like countless tasks, and they truly are our best friends. Sadly, not everybody thinks like I do, and it seems that for every dog-lover out there, is a person who is willing heartlessly harm these wonderful animals, and this realization makes me very sad.

To call "White God," a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" with dogs would be short-changing the merits of this movie. Yes, "White God" has lots in common with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Kind of. Sort of. Yes, it revolves around a dog who sees the ugly side of human-and-canine relationships. Yes, he begins a revolt against the canine oppressors. Yes, he has a love-sick owner who is desperately trying to find him. Honestly, that is where the similarities stop. 

What's fascinating about "White God" is that the 200 or so dogs used are all real dogs. There are no CGI dogs or any clever special effects anywhere. The scenes where hundreds of dogs are stampeding through the streets are all real dogs. This gives the film an undeniable authentic feel across the entire film. "White God" is not some kind of summer action blockbuster. This is a movie that actually has a lot on its mind. A movie that takes a stance against prejudice and authority. It is a movie that studies what means to be an outsider. As one dog's story is perfectly paralleled by his owner's life and how she tries to fit in and destroy herself out her misery of losing her best friend.

The movie is about Lili (Zsofia Psotta) and her half-breed mutt Hagen (Luke and Body). The two friends are inseparable, even after Lili's mom drops her off at her fathers doorstep after she accepts work in Australia. Lili's father Daniel (Sandor Zsoter), detests dogs and so does seemingly everybody living in his apartment complex. Once Daniel is faced with bringing the dog to the shelter or getting fined, Daniel abandons the Hagen on the street, while a distraught Lili does everything she can to find him again. Hagen's journey is quite harrowing, as he lives among stray dogs, trying not to be caught dog catchmen, surviving organized dog fights and the like. Make no mistake about it, sitting through all two hours of "White God" is an endurance test, especially if you have a soft spot for dogs. There is some unbearably terrible imagery involving dogs, and there are some very sad parts in the movie. While I couldn't help but get swept away by the craft of the movie, people who cry the instant a puppy dies in any story should be warned to stay away from this one. This isn't some kind of sentimental tale. This is a movie about what drives us to the people we love. What sets determination in our minds when the world is pushing us down. What it means to be an outsider. All of these themes are handled with tenderness and care. All the while this bizarre tale is unfolding in front of us.

What's amazing is how Hagen becomes a character. The dog trainers on set for this movie did their jobs tenfold. Hagen is a full fledged character in this movie, not some kind of device being used to set off a certain emotional response. We feel every little emotion we see pouring out of Hagen's eyes. Honestly, the same can be said about all the dogs we come across in the movie, such as the Jack Russell Terrier Hagen befriends or the Rottweiler who confronts Hagen during a particularly brutal stand-off. Director Kornel Mundruczo creates characters out of every single one of them, and what transpires is an experience unlike any other.

This isn't some Disney type tale and I'd love to push people to see this just to discuss the ending and what it means. The last forty-five minutes of the movie could have ended up as a joke, but the way the characters had been built up lead to a satisfying payoff once things get really crazy. I was trying to guess how this would finally conclude, and what I didn't expect was a crazy-calm and I am sure people will have different reactions once the credits start to roll. For anybody who has a love for this medium or wants to see the best movie to feature dogs in the last ten years, definitely check this out.

FINAL GRADE: A

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