EO is a movie that takes place from the perspective of a donkey, and is probably one of the trippiest films made by someone over 80. Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski (Le Depart) returns with a short, absurd, and heartfelt film. The film does not have a fully coherent narrative-however, it is this wonky structure that creates a strange charm. Much like Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, EO bounces from vignette to vignette and all that holds it together is the donkey. However, Skolimowski’s modern update is bursting with energy, color, and electronic music. Not necessarily something you would expect from an Octogenarian.
As in Balthazar, the story follows a loveable and uniquely intelligent ass as it travels from location to location and person to person. Many films have been made about animals, and usually alongside the animal is a starring actor. In EO, there are only supporting actors. They do a solid job, but no one particularly stands out. Fortunately, this donkey is the Daniel Day-Lewis of donkeys. He meets a soccer team, a creepy polish man, gets confused as a horse, and intrudes on a weird situation between a woman and her stepson. These sequences are depicted in wild ways, utilizing disorienting camera angles. The extended sequence involving a soccer team and some hooligans is not only hilarious, but it is also impeccably crafted. The film is so ridiculous that when a semi-incestuous plotline is introduced and immediately abandoned, it feels in line with everything that comes before and after it.
Some of the film’s strongest qualities are its cinematography and sound design. The cinematography in the first fifteen minutes has a dull gray palette similar to The Last Duel, and then out of nowhere, Skolimowski goes full Panos Casmotos mode and introduces a saturated red tint to the film. The use of the color red in this film is magnificent. Skolinowski and his DP, Michal Dymek, make the most of a modest budget through the use of natural lighting. Skolinowski is able to achieve awe-inspiring sequences. He splices these moments with a minimal techno soundtrack that had me dancing in my tuxedo. Sound designer Radoslaw Ochnio does a great job clashing sounds of nature with Pawel Mykietyn’s experimental soundtrack. In terms of the screenplay, the dialogue is very strange. There are multiple conversations about horse meat being turned into salami. People laughed awkwardly in my theater, without a clue as to whether to take these moments seriously.
Skolimowski’s message about animal rights may be lost in his overbearing stylization. However, I think fans of animal-led arthouse such as Pig, Gunda, and The Truffle Hunters, will find a lot to love about EO. With a runtime of only eighty minutes, the film should be palatable to general audiences. While clearly inspired by Bresson, Skolimowski makes EO all his own, by dabbling in numerous genres, and successfully giving it a universal appeal.
– Jack Schenker (@YUNGOCUPOTIS)
2022 Cannes Film Festival; Jerzy Skolimowski; EO movie review