Friday, 10 October 2014

LFF REVIEW - WHITE GOD (MUNDRUCZO KORNEL)


Mundruczo Kornel bypasses the disorder that often arises when skilled technicians as himself experiment by turning their eye to the natural world by setting his experiment within a clear, identifiable genre framework. His tale of a brutal and sudden canine uprising in Budapest and the events which inspired it is designed, basically, like several similar thrillers, but the simple tweak of reimagining the oppressed-turned-oppressors as animals bequeaths this framework with tart layers of subtext, which Mundruczo is wholly willing to exploit. White God is thus a rumination not on man vs. nature but on man's resolute urge to control nature, thereby setting it into an unnatural state for which the only apparent remedy appears to be revolt. It's a vibrant rumination, though, and mostly entirely convincing - even the extensive scenes of animal interaction make total sense, Mundruczo entirely refusing to anthropomorphise the canine characters. These scenes, mostly dialogue-free, are the film's most involving, and are performed with alarming skill by the cast of supremely talented dogs. In particular, leads Body and Luke make an enormously memorable impression, their range of full-body and facial expressions at the pinnacle of achievement among animal actors. It's appropriate that the animals steal the show - Mundruczo argues that their ragged rebellion represents a genuine, natural order, not the stifling, supposedly straightforward one we humans are responsible for. The clean, straight lines of an inner city junction, the elaborate mathematics of Liszt's flamboyant Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, all depicted as pompous exercises in futility, as the world we seek to suppress literally bursts through the seams of society and bleeds us dry. Even Asher Goldschmidt's score seems to allude toward the primal, in its driving beats and throbbing, minimalist basslines. The allegorical touch is stinging, and justly so, though perhaps too bluntly put. This is an excellent piece of craftsmanship across the board, but I was unable to entirely warm to it - I can appreciate the excellent performances of Mundruczo's cast of dogs, but I cannot be persuaded of the comfort of the conditions under which they delivered such good work. Whether praised and rewarded or not, I do not buy into the notion that these animals enjoy the experience of appearing in films. The suffering on screen was just that bit too real for me.