The opening scene of young Lili on her bike in an abandoned street with hundreds of stray dogs running in tow to a powerful orchestral score gives you only but a taste of what is to come. White God follows trumpet playing, thirteen-year-old girl, Lili, and her beloved dog, Hagen. Do to her parents being separated and her mother having to take a short trip, Lili has to stay with her slightly out of touch father who is far from happy about his daughter bringing her canine friend with her. Eventually her father can’t take it any more and throws the dog out onto the streets devastating Lili. Refusing to accept that Hagen is lost forever, Lili sets out to find him, whilst Hagen finds himself in his own battle for survival.
Don’t be fooled, this is no Marley and Me or Homeward Bound. This Hungarian feature film, directed by Kornel Mundruczo, over the next two hours is nothing short of exceptionally entertaining cinema. Compelling, visceral and brutal, which even has the audacity to become comically hilarious in the final third as Hagen leads the charge of stray dogs hell bent on revenge to anyone that has wronged them in the past.
The tone of the film feels like it is constantly shifting from a coming of age drama, a heartwarming canine escape all the way to a graphic and comic revenge thriller. This is emphasized by an impressive orchestral overture of a score by Asher Goldschmidt that really underlines some of the films bigger set pieces.
Littered with impressive set pieces of rampaging dogs through the streets using a cast of 247 dogs from rescue shelters, which might have been a director’s nightmare to organise, looks spectacular and is reminiscent to scenes in I Am Legend or The Birds. There are a number of brutally unsettling scenes especially if you are a dog lover but there is so much fun to be had. From dodging the dog wardens to dealing with the underground world of dog fighting, Hagen really is put through the mill in his pursuit of his owner.
Young Lili is played by Zsofia Psotta and manages to transcend her years with an assured and mature performance along with Hagen who is actually played by twin rescued dogs Luke and Brody. So good in fact are these two dogs that they managed to scoop the prestigious Palme Dog for the best four-legged performance at the Cannes Film Festival.
White God is thrilling and deliriously entertaining throughout as it takes you on a rousing rollercoaster ride of genres and emotions from adventurous, comical and heartwarming to dark, daring and vicious. White God comes highly recommended.