Kornél Mundruczó’s White God – Au Hasard Hagen

Kornél Mundruczó’s film White God is a technically remarkable, and sometimes plaintive, fable about a girl and her dog’s trials and tribulations during their separate but parallel lives. At its best it shares similarities with Robert Bresson’s masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar.

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The girl Lili, played by Zsófia Psotta, and her dog Hagen are soon separated. The film isn’t shy of juxtaposing the two companions’ search for one another as we can see above. These concurrent shots with their cinematic nature provide some of the film’s best moments.

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Lili’s journey if anything is typical of a teenager with growing pains, here with a crush on an older boy. As hinted before, the film is often on the move to give the viewer a sense of girl and dog’s increasing literal and figurative separation.

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Despite the story being of both Lili and Hagen’s fostering resentment at the world around them, Hagen’s journey is rather more violent as he falls into the hands of dog fighters. We can take consolation Hagen is played by two separate dogs.

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My attempt at a catchy but clumsy title blog post title is all very well, but the film shares as much similarity with Conquest of the Planet of the Apes as Au Hasard Balthazar. The film hinted at its fantastical nature before, a turning point comes on seeing Hagen with a clear sense of his own mortality (and as we find out soon, a clear sense of what to do about it) looking in at a dog pound’s termination room.

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The film’s escalation (one could say descent) into a revenge motif common to many horror films delivers its remarkable technical component. Hagen and his canine conspirators’ rampage through the city is a stunning spectacle, even more so as they’re played by untrained dogs who deservedly shared the Palm Dog Award for their efforts. No men in monkey costumes like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, or wireframe models in computer renderings like its recent ‘remake’ Rise of the Planet of the Apes—these dogs are the real deal.

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Girl and dog have irretrievably moved on but in reconciliation they’re allowed one last chance to remember their past lives; a wistful reflection on childhood for Lili, we’re not quite sure with Hagan due to his unpredictable nature and that well, he’s a dog. Balthazar the donkey took his maltreatments on the chin, perhaps Hagan like the film itself may reflect violence isn’t always in one’s best interests, but by any measure both dogs and film provide remarkable viewing.

Thanks very much to Jon for reminding me to watch via his comparisons to Au Hasard Balthazar.

Reference: White God – Wikipedia

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