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White God

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    Ian Jane
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  • White God



    Released by: Magnolia Releasing
    Released on: July 28th, 2015.
    Director: Kornél Mundruczí³
    Cast: Sandor Zsoter, Szabolcs Thuroczy, Gergely Banki, Zsí³fia Psotta
    Year: 2014
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Written and directed by Kornél Mundruczí³ and shot in his native Hungary, 2014's White God starts with an amazing scene in which a girl named Lili (Zsí³fia Psotta) rides her bicycle through Budapest, the city seemingly empty save for the horde of dogs running behind her. From here, we learn more about Lili but not about what exactly was happening with those dogs or why they were chasing her. Her parents split up some time ago and much to his dismay, her father Dí¡niel (Sí¡ndor Zsí³tér) has custody of her. Her mother has remarried and moved away to take a new job, so she doesn't really have anyone else in her life except for her dog Hagen.

    Dí¡niel isn't keen on the dog in the first place and when the city decides that owners of mixed breed dogs need to pay an additional licensing fee, Lili's relationship with her father starts to become very strained. It comes to a boil when she quits her position as lead trumpeter for a school production when the teacher tells her she can't bring Hagen to the practice sessions. At his wit's end, Dí¡niel takes Hagen out for a ride in the car, one that the man figures will be a trip the dog won't be coming back from.

    Lili is incredibly upset about this and goes on an angsty rebellious streak while Hagen, no free to do as he pleases, wanders the streets of Budapest eventually, after earning their trust, taking up with a pack of wild dogs. Eventually, when animal control clamps down on the pack, Hagen is almost captured but a homeless man gets him out of harm's way only to then go on and sell him to an underground dog fighting ring. Hagen will eventually escape from this as well, but he won't be the same - he can't escape the inevitable much longer and soon animal control not only traps him, but tries to put him down. Hagen, however, has had enough with the humans of this world and isn't going to go down without a fight.

    Often shot from unusually low angles in order to present things from the dogs' point of view, This is a visually arresting film from the start. It's a picture ripe with some genuinely startling imagery and so too is it a film that pulls very few punches. The violence involving the dogs, which is fairly plentiful in the movie's last half, is staged but it is staged well enough that you might lose sight of that while watching White God. If the film were silent, it would still be hypnotic.

    The performances, however, are just as strong as the visuals and not just from the human element but amazingly enough from the dogs as well. Zsí³fia Psotta is excellent as the female lead here. We feel for her, life has dealt her a lousy hand and we appreciate and feel for her connection to Hagel. Sí¡ndor Zsí³tér also does fine work here. His character isn't always likeable but he is at least believable in his fault. This is an important aspect of the story, as it's the failing of the human characters that turn this story from a fairly dramatic character study about a girl's relationship with her dog into a revenge-nature run amuck hybrid. There are likely subtle satirical jabs at Hungarian politics that might go over the heads of North American viewers but even if you're not able to grasp the finer details of that aspect of the movie, this one works incredibly well as a parable about how man and animal interact. If you look at this as Hitchcock's The Birds by way of a Herzog movie (with a nod to Samuel Fuller thrown in here and there), you're not too far off, but White God remains its own thing. It's a unique, original film and an incredibly well made one at that.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Magnolia presents White God on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Framed at 2.39.1 this is a slick looking transfer and as the feature was edited and then transferred digitally, there's no room for print damage and what not. There are no obvious compression artifacts and the image is free of any aliasing or edge enhancement. Detail is always above average and at times reference quality while color reproduction is accurate and often impressive. Black levels are strong, skin tones look good and all in all, the image quality here is rock solid.

    The only audio option provided is a DTS-HD 5.1 track in Hungarian with removable subtitles offered up in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. The audio is clean, clear and quite detailed. Sound plays a big part in the effectiveness of this movie, especially in the scenes where the dogs get more active, so be sure to watch it at a good volume. Levels are nicely balanced and there are no problems at all with any hiss or distortion. Great, powerful bass response here too, which helps anchor some of the more active scenes. Also impressive is how much depth the score has at certain points in the movie.

    The main supplements are a series of three featurettes, the first of which is a seventeen minute behind the scenes piece that actually does a really great job of showing off the intricacies of working with animals on set. Input from the cast and crew give this footage some context and it's a worthwhile piece. Up next is a fourteen minute interview with Kornél Mundruczí³ who speaks about where the ideas for the film came from, his troubles finding the financing he needed to make it, the choice to use real animals in place of CGI creatures and his thoughts on the deeper meaning behind the picture. The third featurette is a five minute interview with Teresa Ann Miller who served as both animal coordinator and technical advisor to Mundruczí³ on the shoot. She talks about casting the dogs for the film and what it was like dealing with them during the production.

    Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Magnolia properties, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    White God is a powerful film to be sure - strong stuff. The (staged) dog fights can be a tough watch for animal lovers, they're cringe inducing, but the film is so captivating and engrossing that you can't help but watch even if you want to turn away. The visuals are reason enough to want to see this, it's an incredibly striking film in that regard, but the fact that the story is as intense and involving as it is seals the deal. Magnolia's Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent and includes some solid supplements as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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