I could easily live on a planet with no dogs. The animals are far less interesting to me than bacteria or ants or pigeons. Also, I completely understand why the last great French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze, described barking as "the stupidest cry, the shame of the animal kingdom." Few things wear on my nerves faster than barking, and it seems nothing gives this animal greater satisfaction (or sense of species-being) than barking at something seen or unseen. I can tolerate a world with domesticated canines for only one reason: Many humans who are close to me are also very close to their dogs. I do not understand the nature of this close relationship; I do not know how my friends endure the barking, the licking, the lazy-tongue panting, the hair everywhere, the strong smells, the running in circles. But they do—and as a consequence, I do, too. I have to endure this animal.
On the landscape of my life-expanding past, I once had a romantic relationship with a dog lover. She had no other friends but her lean mutt with brown eyes. (For me, there are only small and big dogs—I much prefer the former.) And even though I walked this dog, talked to it, and petted it with something that could easily be confused with affection, my lover knew there was a hard barrier between the animal and me. This barrier did not exist for her in any way. She loved her dog as much as (and maybe even more than) she loved me. In Kornél Mundruczó's brilliant, wonderful, amazing, must-see movie White God, 13-year-old Lili (Zsófia Psotta) finds herself in a world where she is the only dog lover. Everyone around Lili—her father, her friends, her government—has the same kind of anti-dog barrier I used to have. When Lili moves in with her father, a divorcé and scientist in the beef industry, he refuses to pay the ridiculously high tax charged for keeping her mutt, an imposing animal named Hagen. He is not rich—one has the impression he was impoverished by the divorce from Lili's mother—and the apartment is small, so the dog has to go. Hagen is abandoned on the streets of Budapest.
Dog lovers will profoundly enjoy about two-thirds of White God. The formula is classic: Teenage girl loves her big dog, her big dog loves her, but the two are suddenly and brutally separated. As Lili searches everywhere, Hagen becomes a street dog and is chased (not to say hounded) by men from animal control. Hagen soon learns that humans, in general, are cruel animals. Hagen is captured, sold, beaten, drugged, and so on. Is this the dog's fate? An underworld hell? Will Hagen be reunited with Lili? The answer to all this is found in the last third of the film, a section that will not be popular with dog lovers but certainly will be with those, like me, who either tolerate, fear, or hate dogs.
Whichever section of the film you favor, you're sure to agree that, as a whole, White God pushes anthropomorphization to levels that rival Disney. Hagen's relationship with other street dogs easily recalls Lady and the Tramp. Is this really such a bad thing? Anthropomorphizing? Humans are animals, after all. And animals mostly act like other animals: They eat, fuck, search for things, rest in warm places; they don't like pain, hunger, cold rain, being sick or ignored.
There is no anthropomorphizing in the super-excellent Icelandic feature Of Horses and Men, but it makes the human-animal connection plain nonetheless. The mothers, riders, and drunks in the film want to believe there is a great and unbridgeable gulf between themselves and their horses—curiously, there are no dogs or cats anywhere—but they eventually submit to the fact that the desires that course through human bodies are the same as those that course through horse bodies. (The small horse-loving community in which the story unfolds is not unlike Enumclaw, Washington, which became famous in 2005 for a human/horse fucking scandal that was eventually made into a documentary called Zoo by me and Robinson Devor.) In this film, animals do not act like us, but instead we come to see that despite being highly cultured, having a profound sense of tradition/history, and possessing powerful intellectual, creative, and communication tools, we never act below or above what we always are: animals.