Saturday, August 22, 2015

White God Review

Eventually they will rise up. Inevitably, the abused and and the neglected will reach a breaking point.The sadness and the anger and the hate will boil over. 

Too many people turn on their televisions and see the chaos of a riot, a city on fire, and instantly think ill of those with the torches. Savages, they will call them. Thugs. The plight of the broken and the desperate will continue to be ignored. No one stops to ask, why are they really doing this? Why is the city on fire? Why would they carry the torches?

When the world turns its back on you, you can scream for help but no one will be there to hear it. The hopelessness of reality washes over you. The cards you have been dealt will never be good enough to win. 

Eventually they will rise up.

As an animal lover, White God is a challenging pill to swallow but in the end, when reflecting on the entire experience, it is as important and beautiful as it is brutal. The film tells the story of a teenage girl named Lili and her dog Hagen. When we first meet Lili she is being passed off from her mother to her father, and with her so goes Hagen. It is instantly clear that dad is not a dog person and it's just a matter of time until their ability to coexist vanishes. He literally puts Hagen on the side of the road and drives away. A devastated Lili vows to find her best friend again. 

The world is cruel to anyone or anything deemed lesser than those with power over it. The pain that Hagen goes through as he is tossed between owners, each with different motivation as to why they acquired the dog in the first place is heartbreaking. It's a physical pain of being beaten and tortured. It's an emotional pain of no longer being loved. 

White God is crafted beautifully and performed with absolute excellence, and that doesn't just go for the human characters. The dogs in the film were awarded a special Palm Dog Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, which sounds like a cute gimmick but the ability of these canines to completely carry entire sequences with their movements and body language is nothing short of remarkable. The two dogs that shared the role of Hagen, Bodie and Luke, essentially play one of the two leads in the picture and they do so in a way that really resonates emotionally. I don't know if it's fair to say that dogs had charisma or perhaps it was just the realism of their pain, but I became intensely invested in their story while so many people in movies fail to grab me and make me give a shit.

The comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes are sound, but more than it being similar to other animals attacking people films I was struck by White God being an allegory for the racial and class oppression that is far too prevalent in the world today. We see the looting and the protests and instantly we question why it had to happen, but before those cameras were rolling it was happening for months, years, decades even. When people have no hope, when they are given so little opportunity to make something of their lives and the only way to have your voice heard is to light the city on fire?

Eventually they will rise up.


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