Cannes 2014 – A Certain Regard
Cannes 2014 – Winner – A Certain Regard Prize
Cannes 2014 – Winner – Palm Dog
A cautionary tale between a superior species and its disgraced inferior... Favoring pedigree dogs, a new regulation puts a severe tax on mixed breeds. Owners dump their dogs and shelters become overcrowded. 13-year-old Lili fights desperately to protect her pet Hagen, but her father eventually sets the dog free on the streets. Hagen and his pretty master search desperately for each other until Lili loses faith. Struggling to survive, homeless Hagen realizes that not everyone is a dog’s best friend. Hagen joins a gang of stray dogs, but is soon captured and sent to the pound. With little hope inside there, the dogs will seize an opportunity to escape and revolt against mankind. Their revenge will be merciless. Lili may be the only one who can halt this unexpected war between man and dog.
From the director of DELTA, JOHANNA and TENDER SON. In Kornel Mundruczó’s sixth feature film WHITE GOD, “man’s best friend,” outcast and betrayed, rebels against their former master…
No one will ever accuse Kornel Mundruczo of looking for easy options. Each and every one of the films he has made have challenged his audience and his latest is no different. A cautionary allegory warning against the racial hatred and intolerance raising its ugly head all over the world, it starts innocently enough as a tale about a girl and her dog, but ends in a threatening tone, very much akin to the conclusion of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds… Just like Hitchcock before him, Mundruczo’s conclusion suggests that the complacent, self-satisfied, corrupt ‘white species’ running the world and taking for granted that all other species are inferior and exist only for their benefit, are about to be taught a bitter lesson. But unlike Hitch, Mundruczo’s ‘white gods’ are not just oblivious of the impending danger in store for them, they actually trigger it by their own actions and conduct… Superbly trained by Teresa Ann Miller, Luke and Body who play (leading dog character) Hagen, hold themselves proud against anyone in the two legged cast, (actress Zsofia) Psotta’s innocent face and luminous eyes are an asset not to be denied and the dog hordes invading the Budapest streets look like a new version of armies sweeping over Europe. Animal lovers will look away in some of the scenes here (Hagen’s training sessions are a tough watch) but ultimately, they should be pleased....because ultimately dogs have the upper hand.
— Dan Fainaru, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL
Kornel Mundruczo's sixth and best feature is an emotionally rousing, technically masterful man-vs.-dog adventure… a thrillingly strange update of the “Lassie Come Home” formula in which one lost mutt’s incredible journey to sanctuary evolves into a full-scale man-vs.-beast revolution. The sixth and best feature to date from distinctive Hungarian stylist Kornel Mundruczo… moving, technically masterful film… Mundruczo’s storytelling (is) rousing and emotionally purposeful — not to mention morally challenging, as man and dog are accorded equally flawed, vengeful psychologies in the film’s universe. Uniformly outstanding technical credits do full justice to this complex premise, with supple, elastic lensing and editing invaluable in realizing one story world shown from two alternating vantage points. Special mention, meanwhile, must be made of the extraordinary contribution of head animal trainer Teresa Ann Miller, who has extracted a range of individual personalities and character responses from the film’s formidably choreographed canine ensemble. Cast credits include a deserved mention for Hagen performers Luke and Body, but many dogs have their day here.
— Guy Lodge, VARIETY
Sympathy for the underdog takes on a literal meaning in this lightly dystopian canine thriller… On wet-nosed face value, White God is an urban adventure yarn about a teenage girl searching for her beloved pet dog. Under its furry skin, an angry allegory for political and cultural tensions in contemporary Europe… Production values are also strong, with some impressive technical elements, notably the highly-trained animal cast members… Young big-screen newcomer Zsofia Psotta gives a confident, convincingly surly performance as 13-year-old Lili… White God falls somewhere between a superior genre thriller and a Big Statement movie… admirably unorthodox and sporadically gripping shaggy dog story.
— Stephen Dalton, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Fur flies and blood flows in “White God,” a fierce and beautiful Hungarian parable about a girl, her dog, and the uprising that’s sparked after they are separated… “White God” belongs to its remarkable dogs, including Hagen, who is played with soulful expressivity by the Arizona brothers Body and Luke. (A mix of Labrador, shepherd and Shar-Pei, they were found and trained by Teresa Ann Miller.) Told partly through Hagen’s low-angle point of view, “White God” initially evokes “Black Beauty,” as each new adventure becomes a gloss on human cruelty. Yet just as Hagen seems doomed, the story takes a sharp, wild turn when the dogs rise up against their tormentors, toppling the master-slave dynamic.
— Manohla Dargis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Off the beaten (Cannes) Competition… most astonishingly – the apocalyptic misadventures of a Jekyll-and-Hyde dog… I am still bewitched, two days after the screening; it’s the most surprising film I can remember seeing at Cannes. The story of a young girl and her dog, it starts like a Disney family film, develops into a horror movie (George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is explicitly referenced) and turns into an apocalyptic vision which would at once delight and confound Morrissey, with animals striking back against human hegemony… Mundruczó’s (film) is Wagnerian opera (again referenced in the film); his ability to ratchet up the impact of a scene makes him the Michael Bay of arthouse… White God confirms Mundruczó’s position as one of Europe’s most exciting, unpredictable and technically competent directors. In a world where so many filmmakers seem to rework the same material over and over, he’s is a true wild card…
— Nick Roddick, SIGHT AND SOUND
Startling and elusive parable… A fantasia of canine madness that looks sometimes like a horror-thriller based on something by James Herbert or Stephen King – and sometimes like a tribute to Hitchcock's The Birds. Except that this time it's The Dogs. It could be that Mundruczó has taken profoundly to heart Morrissey's maxim that Meat is Murder, and wished to put it at the centre of his film. There are other moments when it looks like a blend of Gladiator and Spartacus only with dogs instead of humans. I could even occasionally see hints of innocent takes like The Incredible Journey and Hue and Cry… White God works as an ambiguous satire of power relations… The film has a flair and a bite… It is a distant cousin to Planet of the Apes: all ruined Budapest needed was a big Statue of Liberty sticking up out of the asphalt.
— Peter Bradshaw, THE GUARDIAN