December 20, 2015 -- This unique Hungarian fable about racism and immigration is told from the point of view of dogs and children.
Lili (Zsófia Psotta) and her dog, Hagen (real name Body) are dropped off with Lili's father, Dániel (Sándor Zsótér of “Son of Saul”) for three months by Dániel's ex-wife. Dániel, had not been told about the dog in advance, and clearly doesn't want the big dog in his apartment, but he takes Hagen in. Hagen is upset being locked in the bathroom, so Lili, a musician, plays soothing music on her trumpet for him and Hagen calms down.
The real trouble starts when a nosy neighbor reports the dog to authorities. The city has put an onerous tax on mixed-breed dogs and Lili's father refuses to pay the tax, believing that his ex-wife, now half a world away, should pay the tax on Hagen, who is not considered a pure breed. He turns the dog loose and Hagen becomes a stray dog. Lili, devastated, mounts a search for him.
Thus begins the Odyssey of Hagen, told from the dog's point of view. He becomes the property of a man who trains dogs for dog fighting competitions where dogs fight to the death. He injects Hagen with drugs, sharpens his teeth and trains the mild-mannered dog to be a killer. Hagen wins his first fight, killing his opponent, but then he escapes.
Hagen is then captured by dog catchers and put in a kennel with a large number of other mixed breed dogs, most of whom will end up being unwanted, in part because of the unfair tax, and executed. Hagen, using his killer training, kills his guard and escapes. This allows the rest of the mixed breed dogs in the kennel also escape. This large pack of dogs becomes a kind of army of angry dogs who turn on their human enemies. Hagen, the leader of the pack, seeks out those who have abused him and exacts a terrible revenge.
A high degree of dog training is demonstrated in this film. The dogs are remarkable in their ability to open gates, move through the streets around and over people at speed, and show emotions while doing these things. The human actors, Zsófia Psotta, and Sándor Zsótér are also convincing. Sándor Zsótér, who plays Lili's father, has a very nice scene where he realizes that in his absence, his daughter has grown up. He tries to be a better father, and make up for the mistakes he made earlier.
The fact that Dániel works around a place where cattle are slaughtered and butchered, and the whole business about discrimination against dogs that are not considered “pure breeds” are obviously related to the title of this movie. Men consider themselves gods when it comes to their relationship with animals, and increasing discrimination against non-white people (such as exiles from the Middle East) is a growing force.
The film works as an allegory for these issues, but is somewhat slow-moving and it takes a lot of time to develop. I suspect that some of this film's higher than expected critical praise is due to the youth and beauty of its 13-year-old star, Zsófia Psotta. She's not quite sexually exploited in this film, but there is a definite sexual subtext here. This film rates a B.
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