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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 09.11.14] Hungary drama



I can't say if this intended or not, but there is a gimmick I noticed this year: almost every movie is introduced as either an "homage to" or an "adaptation of." White God one is no exception being a homage to Samuel Fuller's White Dog, itself an adaptation of Romain Gary's Chien Blanc.

Yes this is getting ridiculous.


If you have never read nor seen the previous versions of this tale, proceed now to your nearest cultural sale point (or Wikipedia if you're a lazy cheap-stake) for I'll assume in the remaining piece, that you are familiar with the story. The point being that this is a modern day, politically-correct-to-the-point-of-straining, pint of golden syrup version of the original material. A bit like what Disney's The Fox and the Hound is to the Daniel Mannix's novel. The whole social commentary side of the movie really brings to mind leftover teenage white-guilt mixed with a “look ma! I'm making a statement” attitude.

Let's demonstrate: All the adults are virulent psychopathic arseholes with hatred for all the non pure-breed dogs. Yeah, instead of being a parable on racism inter-human, we get inter-species segregation, because we are soooo wicked as to project our own prejudices onto other phylums. No words on how cats or plants are treated but I'm pretty sure it's gruesome. Also, it's males that are the source of all that evil, since the "loving/beautiful/nurturing" mother departs at the beginning leaving the heroine in the care of her "bitter/frumpy/demeaning" father, and the only two other adult females on screen are crones, aka masculine. But fear not, for love and understanding will, sadly, prevail in the end.

Then there is this cyclic pathos generation, opening on the girl and her dog playing, then building on aggravation and cruelty layer by layer to the point that the audience bonds with the animal and is happy to see it tear throats. From here it goes down the same stacked order as the wild pack kills all the people who wronged our furry hero until the bond is recreated with his little owner. Rewind. Yawn. Loop.

The rabid cinephile in me was ranting about the lack of proper care shown by the girl or the stupid "trumpet to calm dog" and "drop down and play dead" act the humans put up to avoid being attacked, and at the same time amazed at the actual amount of training needed for the scenes to run right.

In the pantheon of animal movies this one will reign forever thanks to its wonderful lighting; with a perverse effect that it sublimes a dog fight to the point of lavish fetishistic eroticism. Seared in my optic nerves is one incredible scene where a river of snouts and fur breaks free from its dam and flows outside the screen. Like an Escher drawing where the space between each dog is another, but alive with the reflection of light on a myriad of coats. I want to bathe in this liquid fur, it's that mesmerizing.

Also worth mentioning is that the only good acting is done by the various dogs, but given the semiotic baggage of the whole I think this is purely intentional as another means to disparage the human race.

Despite all the above I actually really enjoyed watching White God unfold, surely because like many others I've been hardwired since birth with heightened emotional reaction to stories focusing on animals, thank you Old Yeller. I'll even watch it again in an instant, the operative word here being guilty pleasure.

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