I know most people are deterred by movies with subtitles because America, but I do not have that affliction. This is a movie that had literally ONE showtime because New Orleans is not really known for it’s small distribution art-house film hubs if you know what I mean. I should look up what language it was in because I’m writing about it and I sat through and listened to it for two hours, but I think it’s funnier if I guess first. It felt like Russian OR whatever they speak in Copenhagen. Which is in Denmark so…Danes? Danish? I actually don’t think that’s a language I think they speak something else. Part of the goal of these posts is to expose my own ignorance, so in that way this paragraph is truly a success. I’ll look it up out of curiosity before the end of the post probably.
This movie, which for some reason is called White God, I can try to figure that one out later (God is dog backwards? Everyone in the movie was white?) was about a little girl named Ranzc? (I’ll look that up too) whose parents are divorced. She usually stays with her mom but her mom is going on an academic trip to Australia so she’s going to live with her dad for three months. Her dad works in a slaughterhouse but everyone calls him Professor, something I didn’t quite figure out. I think he used to be a Professor? but I’m not sure why the career change.
One of the first scenes in the movie is just the camera following him around at the slaughterhouse, where they show in great detail a cow being cut up, gutted, and inspected. At the point where the stomach lining is cut and hot balloons of innards tumble out most people probably would have decided to take a small break from the popcorn, but not me, I persevered through.
So, they’re doing this very awkward hand off of their child, and immediately the dad has a problem with the dog. By the way, throughout the movie, it is harped upon that the dog isn’t purebred, they keep calling it mutt, dirty, beast, etc. It feels very reminiscent of the way Nazis referred to Jews, or the Slytherin use of the word “mudblood.” It felt like an analogy or metaphor is all I’m saying. (Let’s not forget the name of the film).
So the dad kind of protests but he allows the dog to come home with them. But he won’t feed it and doesn’t let it sleep in the bedroom, instead locking it in the bathroom where it proceeds to cry until our heroine plays him the trumpet (she’s in band) and sleeps in the bathtub to keep him company.
The dog by the way is a buttery light brown, with really lively intelligent eyes, that seem to focus and consider things in a very human way. It’s name is “Hagen” (probably why I think the movie is in Copenhagen) and the girl loves it very much. The next morning a bitchy neighbor woman who saw them bring the dog into the building the night before and had a lot to say (“You have to register all dogs that aren’t purebreeds. There’s a memo”) apparently reported the dog to the authorities saying it bit her, and someone from the animal shelter came asking the dad to pay the fine required to house a non-purebred dog.
The father was rigid in his decision not to pay the fine and said the dog wouldn’t be there the next time they came to check on it. The girl knew he was going to take it to a shelter where it would be killed so she brought Hagen with her when she went to school. Which was actually just band practice: it is unclear whether she was in a special music school, or if the movie just never showed her other classes.
She puts the dog in a slated wooden closet during the practice (which seemed kind of cruel) but halfway through, Hagen jumps out and starts barking at the conductor. The conductor reveals himself to be rude and kind of a piece of shit and he kicks Rancz out of rehearsal and subsequently the entire band. Cut to her and Hagen, crying and walking home. Apparently been looking for her this whole time (doesn’t he know she has school?) so he pulls up all angry and puts them both in the car. He is yelling at his daughter and saying they have to take the dog to a shelter, which she keeps disagreeing with. Finally he says “What if I just left it out on the side of the road somewhere?” and he’s angry but she says “Rather” as in “I’d rather that then take him to a kill shelter” but the dad hears it as a challenge so he pulls the car over and pushes the dog out.
In a classic sad animal abandonment scene, they drive away while the dog is running after the car and the girl is crying. Hagen chases the car for a while, but it is a car, so they eventually lose him. Following this, both girl and dog go through some rough times.
Hagen is hunted by a bunch of different people: the animal shelter vans, a mean butcher, a mean homeless man, (lots of people in this movie are mean to dogs) and eventually he is traded/trained to become a fight dog. He is given all these shots and weird muscle building food, and the guy keeps beating him and training him to be aggressive. This culminates in a fight which Hagen wins by killing another dog. But with his muzzle smeared with blood, we see that he is filled with regret (the dog) and he runs away during a power outage after the fight.
Meanwhile, our heroine, whose name is Lili I just looked up (why did I think it was an incomprehensible string of letters?) goes to a rave with a hot dude from orchestra who it seemed like was dating her only friend. But Lili doesn’t care and hides his drugs and alcohol for him on the way into the club. (It would not be a European movie if there wasn’t ONE rave scene where everyone takes drugs and listens to techno). But alas, he leaves her almost immediately for her friend, who I guess he really is dating, and Lili is left alone with all the substances. She drinks a lot and gets sick and passes out. She wakes up to a police dog licking her (subtext: she is a dog whisperer!!) and she is taken to jail where her dad comes to pick her up.
Sidenote: the police officer says he can take her because the drug test was negative-in whatever country this movie is in, is it legal to hold people if they have consumed illegal drugs? Is that ever legal? I feel like that’s a law I should know.
This is a turning point for the two of them, she promises to stop running away and he goes out to kill more cows. Her recital is that night so she changes out of the jeans/hoodie combo, the only thing we’ve seen her in so far, and dons a skirt, button-down, and heels with socks. (CLASSIC middle school band concert outfit starter pack). They go to the concert and it’s tight as hell but it is interrupted when a huge pack of wild dogs burst into the building/mezzanine.
Right, yes, something I forgot to mention was that Hagen was captured after he escaped his dog fighting ring and taken to an animal shelter where he was supposed to be killed (there’s a really cool scene of dogs watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon in this part) but he turns on his handler and in a VERY Roadhouse move, bites the dude’s throat out. All the other dogs push over the handler’s dead body and now they are just this feral pack running free but they seem to have targeted kill goals, namely everyone who has wronged Hagen. So they do a little tour-de-town mauling and kill all the people that were mean to him.
Meanwhile, Lili, who figures out the dogs are looking for her/Hagen is probably with them, takes her bike and little else and starts biking around the now abandoned town (everyone has taken shelter inside, there is a curfew-the whole town really went into dog apocalypse mode very quickly). These shots are cool but also slightly ridiculous. This is where I think the film loses most of its audience- the violence is a little too over the top and ends up coming across as comical. Most of the people in the theatre were laughing when people were getting killed/trampled by the dogs because they didn’t do a very good job to make it look realistic, which sucks because this is such a cool idea for a film (it was described to me as The Birds but with dogs) and most of the movie is so beautiful and well done.
But so, the dog rampage comes to a head when they get to the slaughterhouse. Hagen finally meets up with Lili who has been desperately looking for him the entire film. But he either doesn’t remember her or care because he’s snarling at her and pretty clearly going to attack. Then her dad comes out with a DIY blowtorch and this is the point at which Lili has just had enough. So she does what anyone would do if they had an angry dog mob on their left and open flames on their right. She goes for the brass instrument she has in her backpack! You know the old saying: if you’re faced with violent and imminent death, play some music.
She plays the song she played for Hagen in the bathroom that first night and he is lulled out of his bloodthirst and lays down on the ground. One by one all the dogs lay on the ground, and just like that, the madness is over. Lili also lays down on the ground, and after a while her father joins her. Too many people in life forget how comfortable laying on the ground is.
This is when we get the beautiful aerial shot that’s on most of the posters for this movie, a bunch of subdued dogs in an oddly geometric shape in a parking lot.
While I was leaving the theatre I heard a girl say, “the implication that Hagen’s nature would be fundamentally changed is fucked up” so I know what psychologist is her favorite, but that also struck me as an odd thing to take away from the film. Maybe it is about nature vs. nurture and the inherent good (or lack thereof ) in people, but why can’t it just be about cool shots of dogs? Usually I’m all for uncovering deeper themes and meanings in a work but honestly in this one I feel like the director was like, “I want to see a bunch of dogs running around killing people” and that’s why this movie was made. Why does it have to be more than that? I don’t think Sundance would accept it if it was named, “Murder Bark” or something so I think they gave it a vague religious title so people in film classes would be forced to argue about its ‘themes.’
But I’m going on the record now, I think it’s just about dog violence. Oh also, the movie was in Hungarian, so basically I’m an idiot.
5/10 paws, would not masturbate again