BIG WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU INTEND TO SEE THE HUNGARIAN FILM “WHITE GOD”. TO SAY THAT THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT.
Anytime a friend, stranger, or the internet recommends that I see a book or watch a movie and I get even the slightest hint that there is a dog involved I immediately interrupt, rudely and query, “Does the dog die?” I know that the answer is yes when they huff and say, “I can’t tell you that!”. I cut them off again and say, “ANSWER THE QUESTION! Does the dog die?!”
Because if the dog dies, I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to read it. I don’t even want to hear about it.
I mentioned a while back that I am very empathic. I internalize everything. EV. ER. Y. THING. This is why the movie The Green Mile broke me. But, more than the death of people, I cannot, cannot, CANNOT handle the death of a dog.
I don’t care:
- that the dog was ready to die.
- if the death of said dog brings the story to the perfect close/adds to the plot in some brilliant way.
- if the death was humane.
If the fucking dog dies, I don’t want to know anything about said book or movie.
People have laughed at me and teased me about this. My husband, for a while, would flip to The Green Mile if he saw it was on tv and wait until I noticed. I finally explained it to him in the way I now explain it to everyone:
My personal makeup is such that these things really hurt me. If you care about me, or if you are a decent human being, you shouldn’t want to do something that causes me pain. And these things actually do cause me pain.
And so after reading Marley And Me I made a decision: I value myself and my feelings far too much to bring on that sort of nauseating, snotty sobbing anymore. I like to be happy. And because I am very sensitive and will be upset for days, I’m just going to skip it altogether.
Hence my very insistent questioning of whether or not the dog dies.
Last week I realized that I missed EVERY movie during the wine series at The Michigan Theatre due to other stuff going on. I also want to see the Poltergeist reboot but no one will see it with me. It’s nearly impossible to get Kris to go to the movies without him bitching, and my other movie watching friend and I have tastes that are so opposite on the spectrum we’ve never even heard of the movies the other wants to see.
I went onto Fandango to see what was at The Michigan (it’s one of the few places where I can find something Kris will be willing to see) and there I saw the trailer for White God.
Here is what this trailer said to me…
Girl and dog love each other.
Girl has to go live with dad.
Dad’s not so keen on dogs.
Neither is the Bulgarian/Turkish/Hungarian/Estonian/Ukranian/Czech city where they live.
Dad is a complete fucking asshole and leaves dog on the side of the fucking road in front of his child.
Girl and dog spend the movie searching for each other while girl falls apart.
Girl and dog find each other at the end.
This is a movie I can get behind. As some of you know, I have two dogs. And my older dog and I are, quite literally, best friends. I have had her for over twelve years (since she was about 6 weeks old), and we have had and continue to have lots of adventures. I rarely put her on a leash, she has a fantastic vocabulary and we are the type of girl/dog pair that movies are made of.
But not this movie. Nope. Dear God.
The film starts as expected and as the preview told me it would: girl has to live with dad and after a few scenes establishing the strong bond between Lili and Hagen (the only time the film doesn’t look like it was shot through a blue filter (think Mystic River)) things move to the crux: Dad’s not too keen on Hagen, neither is Budapest… the city charges a “mongrel” tax if you have a dog that is not purebred (and possibly not a “Hungarian Breed” whatever that is). Hagen is used to sleeping with Lili but Dad won’t have it… so she sits in the bathroom with him and plays her trumpet to get him to sleep. Remember this. There’s a whole trumpet side story that’s not important. But remember this shot.
After getting left by the side of the road poor Hagen hangs out waiting for Lili but eventually leaves. He discovers a dead dog and is obviously upset, he scrounges for food and in the process, while at the Central Market, he meets a little friend. They fall into step and Friend helps Hagen learn the ropes of being a street dog. But street dogs, and Hagen himself, have enemies.
From the municipal worker dog catchers (whom Hagen and Friend successful avoid for a huge chunk of the film) to the butcher who threatens Hagen at Central market, the film is a journey through Hagen’s struggles and the men who present obstacles… dad, butcher, and then restaurant dude who ends up selling Hagen to a dog fighter.
And this is where shit gets real. The film has many graphic scenes of what I assume is how people ACTUALLY train their dogs to become fighting dogs. It is gut wrenching. And here is where the tears started… well, there were some tears earlier but this is where they were a little more and didn’t stop. Hagen is horribly abused and, as mentioned, it’s realistic. Also realistic? The dog fighting scene. Where there are bloody, dead or near dead dogs. Hagen wins his first fight and there is a moment where he expresses something that can only be described as guilt. So there I’m bawling about said near dead dog, the loss of Hagen’s innocence and his awareness of this loss.
But he escapes! YESSSSS! Here I’m convinced that shit will turn around. Because, well, because if it doesn’t I’m probably going to walk out into traffic. I wanted to leave at several points. Not because the film wasn’t good. Tangent time.
The film is brilliant. It is well-made, well-acted, beautifully composed and shot. But I picture the filmmaker sitting around saying, “Hmmm… what can I do to make this even worse?” And then fucking doing it. And more. The film is grueling. And manipulative. It’s exhausting. And it’s a type of brilliance I just don’t need. Because I’m way too sensitive and empathic (and human, maybe) for it.
So Hagen is running back and I’m like, “Finally! He’s going to find Friend and they’re going to be cute together and find Lili! And Lili will keep Friend and Dad will see the joy of dogs! YAYAYAYAYAAAAAAAY!” Yes, this is what was going on in my head.
Yeah, no. First he ends up in the shelter. But Lili has been there so the woman who works there might recognize Hagen. And maybe someone else will adopt him and Lili will have to show them Hagen is her dog.
Yeah, no again. Hagen leaps at a woman and is marked for euthanasia.
Here’s where the film turns into a horror movie. Hagen and 200 of his closest friends (including bestie, Friend) essentially form the scariest army you’ve ever seen. He rips out a guard’s throat and then the pack of savage dogs tramples the woman who runs the shelter. They then go backwards through Hagen’s journey, killing everyone who has wronged Hagen. It’s brutal and violent. At some point Lili realizes what is going on and goes on a mission to find and stop him. She finds the restaurant owner who sold Hagen to the dog fighter. He’s a bloody corpse. Then she hears over the police radio that the dogs are at the Central Market. So she goes there. And finds the butcher, also severely dead.
And I didn’t really mind the dead people. Most of them deserved getting their asses kicked by the dogs.
Lili finds the butcher and has a meltdown, calling her dad. “They didn’t touch the meat!”
Yeah, thanks for pointing that out, Lili. The dogs don’t seem to care about the delish looking raw meat that’s just chilling out on the counter. At this point I had a very bad feeling. Despite my desire to believe that this would end well, I turn to Kris and say, “Oh, God, is SHE going to kill him?” because, yeah, I don’t think I can handle that. She knows he is looking for her, she’s worried that dad might be on the prowling pack’s hit list so she’s off on her search. In her apartment she finds a dead neighbor who had turned Dad in for not reporting Hagen to the mongrel tax collectors… so dad is next.
Lili finally finds the roving pack of dogs, who have made their way to dad’s place of business (he slaughters cows… that was a fucking disturbing scene at that start of the movie, let me tell ya) and as she stands in the courtyard they come together.
Now, I quickly recognize this as the end of the trailer. In the trailer, all the dogs are lying down as Hagen comes forward to Lili and she says, “I love you, too.” So in my messy, sobby state I’m really hoping that somehow (I recognize at the time and now that this can’t happen) Hagen is saved and converts back to a nice dog.
Instead, he makes his way toward Lili, growling. She is backing away, terrified. Her father comes out with some sort of flamethrower (apparently it has something to do with how they kill cows) and she’s like, “I got this dad,” and whips out her trumpet.
She plays and slowly all the dogs lie down, even Hagen. And she’s crying. And not because her sweet dog has come back but because, like me, she realizes that the dog has been fucking ruined. She lies down across from him and everyone is silent. Dad watches. Dad’s colleague comes out and says, “Should I call the cops?”
And dad says, “Give them a few minutes.” Cut to the credits.
At this point I’m a hysterical mess. And Kris is running away from me because he doesn’t like when I cry at movies. And I’m furious and feel cheated and lied to and am seriously wounded by this film.
Does the dog die? No. ALL THE FUCKING DOGS DIE.
Including Friend, who dies before the end of the film in a scene so horrible I can’t even write about it here.