Skip to content

Review: EO

March 6, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

EO, the Oscar-nominated latest film from 84-year-old Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, is an engaging portrait of a donkey travelling around Poland, seen mostly through the animal’s eyes.

Styled as a modern cinematic counterpart to Robert Bresson’s 1966 classic Au Hasard Balthazar, the film opens with a show donkey named EO (who was actually played by six different donkeys) performing a dance routine with a young woman named Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), with them both on a stage bathed in strobing red lights.

But the circus is a money-losing endeavour and EO soon gets repossessed, separating him from his owner. The film then follows him as he is bustled on and off different forms of transport, and goes in and out of captivity, interacting with a variety of people and other animals along the way.

It’s hard to say much more about the plot, because EO is very much focused on the journey. The setting allows the donkey to interact with a colourful cast of characters – some kind, but others indifferent or actively cruel – with Skolimowski only ever giving us brief glimpses into their lives. There is a bit of an episodic feel to the odyssey, and Isabelle Huppert even appears for a somewhat melodramatic extended scene in the last act that I’m not entirely sure how it fits in with the rest of the film.

This is a very experimental film at times that is mainly worth seeing for the unique viewing experience, with Skolimowski turning EO’s journey into a multi-sensory experience. Long stretches go by without dialogue, the camera often showing things from EO’s eye level. One of the most impressive aspects of the film is the incredible cinematography by Michał Dymek, including a dizzying moment where the camera literally spins around with the blades of a windmill, and another scene showing the night forest lit up by the tracker beams of hunters, the music taking on a techno quality to match.

While EO might sound like a whimsical donkey movie, and there are charming moments, it is much more of a harrowing and at times genuinely upsetting portrait of how animals are ignored or abused by people. Before the end credits, we get a disclaimer assuring us that the film was made out of a love for animals, and that their well-being was monitored to ensure that none were harmed on-set. And it’s a welcome reassurance after the emotional, wholly unique journey we’ve been take on.

EO is now available to stream on the Criterion Channel.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: