Prepare for an onslaught of dog puns, the Hungarian White God (March 27 via. Magnolia in the US, no date or distributor in Australia) is a hot contender for a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Winning the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes back in May, this tale of an abandoned dog beloved by a teenage girl (newcomer Zsófia Psotta), serves as a metaphor for social and political inequality, where no less than a The Birds-like stampede of dogs rise up against those that left them. Sounds high-concept? According to reviews, it pulls it off remarkably well.
“The words “release the hounds” take on vibrant new meaning in “White God,” a thrillingly strange update of the “Lassie Come Home” formula in which one lost mutt’s incredible journey to sanctuary evolves into a full-scale man-vs.-beast revolution.”
But they’re small niggles in what is overall a triumphantly idiosyncratic film with smarts and visceral impact in equal measure. The “four legs good; two legs evil” dichotomy is blood-boilingly effective to the point of making us turn species-traitor in our sympathies, and like all good revenge narratives, we have to suppress the urge to stand and cheer when the bad guys get their bloody, gory comeuppance. We want our support and appreciation of “White God,” whose title of course riffs on the Sam Fuller dogs-and-racism movie “White Dog,” duly noted, because it makes worryingly plausible this kind of anthropomorphic rebellion, and when “Rise of the Planet of the Dogs” becomes a real thing, we want our new canine overlords to know whose side we’re on.
“It could be that Mundruczó has taken profoundly to heart Morrissey’s maxim that Meat is Murder, and wished to put it at the centre of his film. There are other moments when it looks like a blend of Gladiator and Spartacus only with dogs instead of humans. I could even occasionally see hints of innocent takes like The Incredible Journey and Hue and Cry.”