“Dogs are not an alibi for other themes [… C]ontrary to lots of dangerous and unethical projection in the Western world that make domestic canines into furry children, dogs are not about oneself. Indeed, that is the beauty of dogs.”
Fehér isten (White God (Kornél Mundruczó, 2014))
I was thrown at first by the nature of the dogastrophe. If we are indeed post-adogalypse, would the headlights on the abandoned car still be on? Would the traffic lights still work?
But still, a pleasingly deserted town, a girl (Zsófia Psotta) cycling in a blue hoodie on the motorway and then a pack of mixed breed dogs chasing her through the streets towards and beyond Aldi.
Dániel (Sándor Zsótér), a former professor (of what?) is inspecting an abattoir (gruesome) and then takes on his daughter (the girl, Lili) and her dog Hagen (Luke and Body, effortlessly doubling) as his ex-wife and her mother heads to Sydney for a conference. Dogs aren’t welcome in the apartment and the dogcatcher (Robert Helpmann Gergely Bánki) soon turns up. The conductor of the orchestra Lili plays in is even less sympathetic. Before you know it, Hagen is abandoned by the roadside. Whilst Lili does search for Hagen, she mainly descends into sex (ish) and drugs and rock’n’roll (or house stuff). Hagen has to avoid the dogcatcher and certain death, but falls instead into the murky world of dog fights and training for them (stop humming the Rocky theme at the back) and is renamed Max. And just when you think he’s hit rock bottom, there is dogalution.
Mad Max: Furry Road.
Oh, please yourselves.
I think I could have lived without the human sections — not that Psotta, Zsótér and others don’t put in fine performances, but it was largely handheld in a shakycam. It veered between the dystopian and the soapian. Ah, but the dog narrative — more Steadicam — did hold my interest, and I presume that soon there will be an American remake with Russell Crowe as Hagen:
My name is Maximus Dogious Magyarus, commander of the Hounds of the North, General of the Canine Packs and loyal servant to the TRUE owner, Lili. Son to a neutered Alsatian, husband to a murdered pooch. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
Hagen, it turns out, is a legendary Burgundian hero, who shows up in Wagner’s Gotterdammerung, and his Tannhäuser becomes a plot point late on. Redemption through love.
Or games of fetch.
Inevitably there is the whiff of allegory and mettaffa — Mundruczó has spoken about the backlash against immigrants, there’s an anti-gypsy/Romany thread running through and the dog shelter with chimneys had a prisoner of war/concentration camp vibe. I had a sense of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (J. Lee Thompson, 1972), although as with that mythos you worry about the political implications of arguing that gorillas “are” Blacks and so forth.
I suspect, however, there is at the end a sense that Donna Haraway would be a way to unlock this film — a sense of not quite supplication, but mutual supplication. It’s not a comfortable film to watch — although the cast outacted Channing Tatum — and I confess I am ambivalent about dogs. I could have done without being handed a certain flier: