Writer: Kata Weber, Kornel Mundruczo, Viktoria Petranyi
Cast: Zsofia Psotta, Luke & Body, Sandor Zsoter
Running time: 119mins
The lowdown: Globalisation’s corrosive effects are mauled in this allegorical shaggy dog story. A young girl adopts a street mutt much to the chagrin of her dad and everyone else around her. When they are separated said pooch embarks on an odyssey through the strata of Hungarian society, before turning the tables on those further up the ladder. Director Mundruczo has delivered a hard-edged gem that gives paws for thought.
The full verdict: White God’s charismatic canine, Hagen, is not just a dog. He’s a metaphor for an underclass that can only be pushed so far. He’s the pubescent id of teenage owner Lili (Psotta). He’s also two dogs (twins Luke and Body), although you’ll be hard pushed to spot the joins.
Director Kornel Mundruczo and his two co-writers have created a cautionary fairytale that plays like The Incredible Journey meets City of God. Adopted by the idealistic Lili, her professor father (Zsoter) then dumps Hagen on the streets after the hound disrupts Lili’s music class.
Hagen then runs with a wild pack, avoiding animal control but eventually falling into the clutches of a ne’er-do-well, who brutalises him into becoming a fighter on the illegal dogfight circuit in difficult to watch scenes.
Lili doggedly searches for her missing four legged friend, but will society have pulled them too far apart come the reunion?
Kornel achieves moments you would think impossible outside the realm of animation, including the remarkable third act when seemingly every dog in Budapest has his day. Through clever editing and presumably smart training he draws amazing performances from the expressive, magnetic Luke and Body, rightly second billed in the cast list.
Pointed dialogue about half-breeds and dogs with foreign names hint at White God’s message, while dog catchers are immigration control stand-ins.
Possibly too arch for some and overlong at just shy of two hours, while others may be turned off by the cruelty inflicted upon Hagen. But, with a climax as unexpected as it is satisfying, plus the irresistible sight of a dozen dogs transfixed by Tom and Jerry’s The Cat Concerto, this should find a good home.