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White God: Black Beauty with more bark and bite

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“These are the moments when the masses revolt. It is Europe’s current fear: the uprising of the masses. And they are right to be afraid.” (Kornel Mundruczo, Director, White God)

White God, taken at face value, is Black Beauty doped up and fanged up, ready for revenge. The story revolves around a mixed-breed male dog named Hagen and his young owner named Lili, whose separation from each other is the catalyst for a series of unfortunate events which ultimately lead to a doggy revolution on the streets of Budapest.

The circumstances of the film’s characters show present, persisting issues. “White God” is representative of a singular race as a master race, superior against all others, asserting this very dominance at the expense of another’s freedom. Racial classification and discrimination manifest in mixed-race mongrels requiring to be registered and taxed, lest they are surrendered in the local shelter where conditions are dismal, and some ultimately end up dead.

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Lili and Hagen’s circumstances are almost parallel, albeit not in the same degree of intensity, as Hagen’s coming-of-age proved to be brutal and damaging. He forages for food, escapes from dog-catchers and ends up in the hands of a deceitful homeless man who sells him to another, selling fighting dogs. This is where his adventures take a turn for the worse: His buyer and trainer, who calls him Maxi, dopes him up and brutally trains him to be able to participate in the underground dog fighting pits. From his good-natured upbringing with Lili, he transforms into a beast as his trainer puts the final touch of sharpening his fangs.

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It is at this point, where a very poignant scene (among so many others) symbolizes Hagen’s awakening: he wins his first fight, his opponent lying in front of him, gasping for breath, bleeding, dying — and a tender moment is seen where he intently stares at his opponent on the ground and takes a few steps forward. As a viewer, this was a pivotal point: it was Hagen realizing that this is no way to live, and so escapes… only to end up at the hands of dog-catchers and is taken to the shelter.

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The emotions expressed by Hagen is almost human, almost too expressive: the way he observed fellow dogs in the cages, the way he watched Tom and Jerry while waiting to be treated at the shelter, the way he peered through a euthanasia session with the shelter warden, and the power and strength he showed when he realized that enough was enough.

White God is a parable of sorts, a cautionary tale of colonialism and species supremacy. It is a showcase of the inevitable, of the unwanted empowered: there will come a time when a shift of power will take place once more, and the underdogs will again, bare their fangs more powerful than ever.

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