Matchup of the Day: White Dog vs. White God
It’s a girl and her dog social commentary double feature – White Dog vs. White God.
Both the Hungarian White God and the American White Dog are about a mistreated canine who lashes out at humans. The films could be viewed in a broader sense, representing how society marginalizes certain individuals or how circumstances can taint even the noblest among us. If nothing else, it’s hard to not to go out and hug a dog after watching either of these.
White God is about a girl, Lili, from a divorced family who goes to stay with her father. She brings along her mixed-breed dog Hagen (much is made of his being a “mongrel”), whom her father does not want to keep at his apartment. He and Lili argue over Hagen repeatedly until her father cruelly abandons him on the side of the road. After evading dog catchers, Hagen is captured by a man who fights dogs for money. Hagen, who starts out as a gentle and thoughtful animal, is transformed into a killer of his own kind. This instills within him a hatred of humans. What happens next could best be described as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but with dogs.
White Dog, directed by Samuel Fuller and starring the wonderful Kristy McNichol, is about a young actress, Julie, who accidentally hits a German Shepherd with her car. She decides to keep the dog after he saves her from a being attacked by a man who breaks into her house. What Julie is unaware of is that her seemingly gentle and loving dog was trained by his original racist owner to attack black people (hence the title of the film). After he mauls a black actress Julie is working with she takes him to an animal trainer to have his violent tendencies untaught. One of the trainers, a black man, accepts the challenge.
White Dog was considered controversial when it was made in 1981. Paramount Pictures never officially released it in the United States. The studio didn’t know how to market the film, and there was disagreement over whether it dealt with the issue of racism in an appropriate manner. White Dog ends on a depressing note, implying that hatred cannot be fully eradicated. The German Shepherd becomes another victim of hate.