January 9, 2016

WHITE GOD [2015] movie review

I had heard of WHITE GOD [2015] (7/10) a few months ago from an extended interview with I believe a trainer from the film, or the director or someone very connected to the production. What I heard both interested me very much in seeing the movie, but also made me think, “can I handle seeing dogs portrayed in such hardship?” For those having the same question, I believe it is safe for sensitive animal people to watch.

The movie’s biggest flaw takes place in the very beginning. 13 year old Lilli is about to be left by her mom for three months as she goes to Australia for something seemingly work related. The problem is she is being left with her father who does not give off the impression he sees her often at all. Her mom has not prepared him enough, especially with regard to Hagen, Lilli’s dog. There was no heads up given about this, which is totally unbelievable. Lilli had just one medium sized suitcase for three months. For just a three day trip I would fill that suitcase with supplies for Kiki alone (food, toys, blanket, leash, harness, etc). Furthermore, her father is not even prepared for her. He has a tiny one-bedroom apartment. He just splits the two single mattresses apart and that’s where Lilli is expected to sleep. Totally unprepared on his part to take on his daughter. So this put me off quite a bit as it seemed ludicrous and how could a mother feel comfortable with her daughter staying, even with her father, without ironing out every last detail first?

That aside, right away the viewer is shown that non-purebred dogs are considered trash in Hungary. There are harsh rules for them and militant dog catchers out on the constant lookout for strays. Lilli’s father is not willing to pay the fee to register Hagen, so throws him out of his car right on the side of a road. This is the hardest scene in the movie for me, to see the confusion on Hagen’s face and for him to have to suddenly fend for himself. Thankfully he soon meets another dog buddy. This moment of peace does not last long as Hagen then gets passed from worse human to even worse human. He escapes from a dog fighting ring and the third act goes in a totally unexpected direction.

The emotion and subtlety the director and trainers are able to get from the pair of twin dogs playing Hagen is what holds the viewer.  There are some snarls and loud barks, but Hagen using only facial expressions shows emotion and thought like the best human actor.

The movie overall was good, but not great like I thought it would be. I thought there would be very large emotional scenes involving the dogs, but the unexpected action in the third act does not allow for that. Hagen and his many friends are no longer helpless and the victims.

This culminates in a final dog and human confrontation in an amazingly crafted final shot. Knowing all the dogs in every scene are real and not CGI, makes that final shot really amazing and haunting.

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