A saintly donkey’s journey on acid, but Skolimowski’s elusive, fragmentary work is also earthy, as he gives us a hallucinatory, at times visually dazzling, piece that pays obvious homage to Bresson’s much sparer and more spiritual ‘Au Hasard Balthazar’.
Dir. Jerzy Skolimowski
2022 | Poland | Drama | 86 min | 1.50:1 | Polish & other languages
NC16 (passed clean) for some violence and coarse language
Cast: Sandra Drzymalska, Isabelle Huppert, Lorenzo Zurzolo
Plot: Follows a donkey who encounters on his journeys good and bad people, experiences joy and pain, exploring a vision of modern Europe through his eyes.
Awards: Won Jury Prize & Soundtrack Award (Cannes); Nom. for Best International Feature (Oscars)
International Sales: Hanway Films
Subject Matter: Moderate – Donkey’s Journey; Animal Rights; Freedom & Captivity
Narrative Style: Straightforward/Elliptical
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Viewed: In Theatres – Shaw Lido
Turning 85 years old this year, Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski is no stranger to the festival circuit, even though he is considered one of his generation’s more under-the-radar European filmmakers.
With Eo, he turns in one of his highest-profiled films, scoring a Jury Prize win at the Cannes Film Festival and a Best International Feature Oscar nomination for Poland.
For film enthusiasts well-versed in film history, Eo will certainly recall Bresson’s Au Hasard Baltazar (1966), which portrays a saintly if long-suffering donkey who endures all manner of hardship in the hands of dastardly humans.
Eo’s donkey, similarly saintly, goes on a journey—if Bresson’s work has been described as spare and spiritual, then Skolimowski’s on acid, a hallucinatory head trip that gives viewers some of the most dazzling visuals of the year.
“Don’t scare him.”
Much of the surreal experience can also be attributed to the music, which is a mix of orchestral and electronic ambient soundscapes. The experience somewhat reminds me of the utterly bizarre Nicolas Cage vehicle that was Mandy (2018).
Because it is structured as a series of vignettes, Eo sometimes feels like the sum isn’t quite as rewarding as its parts. It’s a moment-to-moment type of film, not always consistently engrossing but it might lull you into a trance if you can get onto the same wavelength.
Some of the strongest parts of Skolimowski’s work are when we are made to adopt the donkey’s point-of-view as it is bemused by the inane travails of human beings. One wonders what it might think of the pointless cameo by Isabelle Huppert.
[…] would make a good companion piece to the recently released Polish Oscar-nominated film, Eo (2022), which is no less surreal, and whose donkey at its center is also no less humanised. […]