Film Review

Eo

todayMarch 16, 2023 140 1

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By Gareth Jones

For fans of Au Hasard Balthazar, Animal perspectives, the Kuleshov Effect, Polish Film

Although he lost this year’s Oscar for Best International Film to All’s Quiet on the Western Front, 84-year-old Polish master Jerzy Skolomowski’s has created an equally devastating examination of the inhumanity of mankind with Eo.  Instead of war, we get the perspective of the donkey, Eo, as he wanders in and out of relationships with different humans, some kind and loving, others despicable and abusive.  The full spectrum of our treatment of animals is on display.  The tragic tale of Eo begins with a circus where he performs a death and is revived by his trainer in an act that is repeated in different ways throughout his journey.  He leaves the circus and through travels across Europe becomes a soccer mascot, a horse companion, and even a witness to the downfall of a Countess played magnificently by Isabelle Huppert who took on this small role because of her passion for animal rights.  The cinematography by Michal Dymak seamlessly puts you in Eo’s hooves. 

Eo is played by six gorgeous donkeys- Hola, Tako, Marietta, Ettore, Roco, and Mela.  Each plays different aspects of Eo, but all with soulful eyes that confront the viewer and challenge them to not look away from the injustice.  Skolomowski had two major influences for this film. The first is the equally heartbreaking Au Hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson.  Jerzy has a much different style and approach but gets to the same emotional territory.  He was also greatly influenced by the Russian theorist, Lev Kuleshav, who examined how an audience could interpret the same picture of a man looking into the camera in three different ways based on what image was edited into the next frame.  If there was a shot of a bowl of soup, the audience would interpret the man’s expression as one of hunger, or if there was a shot of a body in a coffin the audience would interpret the expression as one of sadness and so on. 

In Eo, Skolimowski does the same thing with the donkey’s face to devastating and powerful effect.  In a directing career that started with masterful works like Deep End and The Shout and has continued through an acting career where most people recognize him from The Avengers, Jerzy Skolimowski may have created his most powerful work.  It is a challenging but vital film that pushes cinema and its audience to consider and care about how we treat our cohabitants in the world.

Written by: Gareth Jones

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