EO (2022)

JERZY SKOLIMOWSKI

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

/, 2022. , , , , , , , , , . Screenplay by , Jerzy Skolimowski. Cinematography by . Produced by Ewa Piaskowska, Jerzy Skolimowski. Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

The symbolism of a donkey as the noble recipient of life’s woes was made gospel by Bresson in Au Hasard Balthazar, and Jerzy Skolimowski resurrects aspects of that film in this cherishable, picaresque tale of a humble beast named EO.

We first see him as part of a circus where he enjoys a tender connection with the young woman who performs alongside him, and whose heart breaks when the circus manager loses all his animals to bankruptcy and she is forced to part with her beloved four-legged pet.

A stint pulling the cart at an estate that breeds stallions doesn’t go so well, something about EO’s lack of pride makes the more impressive animals lose their psychic calm, as if they know that their feelings of superiority are self-delusion and that they are as likely to end up in a can of dog food as their quiet little friend is.

EO is sent to live on a farm but a brief nighttime visit from his human companion inspires him to break out, at which point he hits the road and interrupts a soccer game that results in a town riot.

Another working gig, this time pulling a cart at a fur farm, ends in murder, but it’s followed by EO’s redemption when a kindly priest takes him back to the villa of his disappointed stepmother () who upbraids him for his wayward, youthful follies.

Told in short bursts of plot that always seek to view the world through the perspective of a non-human creature, director Jerzy Skolimowski’s sensually vibrant experience sometimes threatens to overpower its practical content with too much aesthetic splendor, the tall images captured beautifully in the square aspect ratio make it a great pleasure to devour the vistas of red-tinted forests or snow-covered villages, accompanied by a rich soundtrack enlivened by Pawel Mykietyn’s score and always pulsing with the sound of EO’s jaws chewing on delicious vegetables.

At the heart of it, though, is a simple tale of a loveable creature who is too gentle and undemanding for a world that is primarily concerned with consumption, EO just wants his next meal but everyone around him seeks profit, glory and destruction and how could any of us expect it go well for him under those circumstances.

The human figures provide great support in their brief moments on camera, Huppert is wickedly funny as the corrupt matriarch, though hers feels like one of the less complete vignettes in the overall work.

The performance by EO (which was actually accomplished by the efforts of six gorgeous donkeys), however, is some of the best animal acting in recent years.

Cannes Film Festival Award: Jury Prize

Toronto International Film Festival: 2022

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