Not your Dad's Lassie.
Director: Kornal Mundruczo (Tender Son)
Screenplay: Mundruczo, Viktoria Petranyi (Johanna), Kata Weber (Transmission)
Cast: Zsofia Psotta, Sandor Zsoter (Heavenly Shift),
Runtime: 121 min.
by John DeSando
“Don't be afraid, they're just a bunch of dogs.” Man at a club.
Well it’s not the surrealistic Cujo with its rabid St. Bernard or the benign Benji. White Dog, rather, feels like a realistic horror film, at least till the closing when it does get surreal. Indeed, these mutts are not “just a bunch.” They loosely represent the abused and subjugated underclass of the world, and you guessed it, they revolt like apes from that infamous planet or workers from Metropolis.
Until that fantasy ending, where the dogs are let loose to wreak havoc, the story is an effectively scary progression of the dog Max’s descent into rabid madness through various masters, the last of whom teaches him how to kill for dog fights. Young Lili (Zsofia Psotta) befriends Max as a stray until she’s forced to let him go—on to his bloody career. Lili’s struggles to keep the dog put her in opposition to her father, Daniel (Sandor Zsoter), and most authoritarian situations like playing in an orchestra under a controlling maestro.
As the drama slowly exposes (think about Hitchcock’s measured exposition in The Birds) the constant abuse stray dogs are accustomed to, it parallels Lili’s battle with a clueless father and abusive dog catchers, who sometimes resemble Ghostbusters in their uniforms and bungling dog chases. In either case, dog or girl, adults are usually clueless about the suffering they inflict on their dogs and children.
Like the poor French of their Revolution, the downtrodden and dogs will have their day. Today’s increasing gap between the rich and poor or the brutality of Mid-Eastern ISIS persecutions can serve as the objects of writer/director Kornal Mundruczo’s figurative story. For those not interested in English-major deconstructions, White God (the title may be homage to Sam Fuller’s White Dog) is a fine horror story about the voiceless downtrodden rising up against their oppressors.
No matter which side you’re on, it’s a disturbing tale, bloody and depressing, elevated to artistic worthiness by an uncanny fusion of the real and the surreal.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com