Thursday, August 20, 2015

Brilliant Hungarian Drama 'White God' Makes the Case for an Oscar Category for Best Animal Acting

White God (Fehér isten in its native tongue) is technically a 2014 Hungarian film.  But for the rest of the world, this counts as a 2015 film.  Hence, it qualifies to be considered when I make my list of best movies at year end.  And it’s a solid contender for a spot.

The movie centers on a mutt named Hagen who is separated from his guardian, Lili, when her estranged father refuses to pay the excessive fine imposed on owning mixed-breed dogs.  Toughened and driven by his experience with human cruelty in his adventures through the streets, Hagen assembles and leads a pack of street mongrels in rising up against their human oppressors.  Meanwhile, Lili involves herself in a perilous search for Hagen.

White God is the kind of film that I enjoy watching one time and won’t likely re-watch.  It takes time to get invested on, and sometimes felt tedious to go through.  But all the effort really pays off in the end.  I found it pretty rewarding.  The story appeals to the emotion deeply and naturally provokes thought.  It really hit me with the feels.  Hard.

The thing about this movie that blew me away is the acting.  And I’m not really talking about the human actors.  The human actors did great, but what’s really remarkable is the acting of the dogs.  Not only were their physical performances astoundingly organic and precise, but infinitely more impressive was how these dogs convey legitimate emotions through the sounds they make, facial expression, and their body language.  Kudos to whoever the trainer/s is/are (that is, if no form of animal abuse was involved to bring this about).  Seeing these canines’ phenomenal performance is enough to make this movie something worth seeing.

It’s been a while since I found a pet-and-its-owner drama this beautiful and compelling, probably because the movie is not as simple as that – it’s also horror, social commentary, and more.  There’s a clear sense of freshness in its premise and delivery.  And even if you find its message pretentious or absurd, you will probably acknowledge – as I do – that White God is a profound, brilliantly-told modern fable, made very engaging by its cast of dogs.

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