EO (2022)

EO, veteran director Jerzy Skolimowski’s compelling, beautifully shot homage to Bresson’s classic, takes a donkey’s-eye view of the vagaries of life.

Grey Beauty

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

EO, a grey donkey with melancholic eyes and a curious spirit, begins his life as a circus performer before escaping on a trek across the Polish and Italian countryside when the circus is closed by animal rights activists.

During his travels, he encounters an eclectic cast of characters, including a plate-smashing countess (Isabelle Huppert), a young Italian priest (Lorenzo Zurzolo) and a riotous Polish football team.

Inspired by Robert Bresson’s 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar, legendary filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski’s visually inventive film is shot from the donkey’s point of view and places the viewer directly in the heart and mind of the four-legged protagonist.

What the critics say

“Life is seen through the eyes of a put-upon beast of burden in this beautifully photographed homage…sentimental and surreal in equal measure; and also stubborn – as stubborn as its hero – in its symbolism and stark pessimism… there is something a little sugary in the movie, it is poignant and distinctive.” – Guardian

“In EO, life is beautiful, and majestic, and horrific and awful…As well as such harshness, there’s mischievous humour, some of it deadpan, some of it slapstick, some of it involving a plate-smashing Isabelle Huppert (in the film’s oddest, most jarring sequence). Much of it is plain beautiful, Skolimowski in thrall to the natural world — and to his donkey…

Accompanying all of this is Pawel Mykietyn’s score, treating EO profoundly, reverentially, epically.
Skolimowski is not afraid to suggest that EO has emotions much as we do, giving him dream sequences, or at least memories of happier times with Kasandra.” – Empire

“After a brief spell at a donkey sanctuary, in which he dreams of being reunited with his former trainer Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), EO travels across Poland and Italy encountering a range of people; some of them caring and compassionate, others not so much. Throughout the film, cinematographer Michael Dymek frequently adopts a donkey’s-eye-view to examine what humanity looks like through EO’s eyes, his equine perspective imbuing the film with both ­curiosity and concern. From his ill-fated stint as the mascot for a Polish football team and a fleeting visit to the Italian villa of an unnamed countess played by Isabelle Huppert, to narrowly escaping being slaughtered for salami, EO experiences cruelty and affection in equal measure.” – The Skinny

“…Poignant allegory about economic migration…kindness and…callous indifference…A donkey sets off on a long journey to reunite with his mistress… bearing mute witness to a carnival of humanity at its best, worst and weirdest…

EO ends up in a horse farm, becomes the mascot of a rural town’s soccer team and inadvertently incites a riot with a rival club’s hooligans, toils in factory farms, is bought and sold on the black market, crosses international borders, goes underground and into the Alps, accompanies metalhead lorry drivers, developmentally disabled children, bureaucrats, and a defrocked priest.

Skolimowski offers sketch-comical views of Polish nationalism and machismo, EU migration, the legacy of the Holocaust, and bourgeois decadence in the form of a vampish stepmother played by an unexpected cinematic legend. There are children at the beginning of their life, men at the violent end of theirs, and a veterinarian’s clinic where someone poses the key question of the film: why should it suffer? Throughout, the director uses fisheye lenses from odd camera positions, giving a distorted view of humanity’s foibles.” – Little White Lies

EO premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize, screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 3 February 2023 in the UK. Poland has selected EO as its official submission for the 2023 Academy Awards.

OUTSIDERS AND EXILES: THE FILMS OF JERZY SKOLIMOWSKI are presented in partnership with the 21st Kinoteka Polish Film Festival which runs at BFI Southbank from 27 March–30 April 2023.

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