Reviewed by Imogen Parkin
EO is both a sombre look at animal cruelty and a mind-bending journey into the mind of director Jerzy Skolimowski.
With a strong anti-animal cruelty message, the audience are transported into the world of Eo, a performing circus donkey in Poland, and we accompany him on a journey through the European countryside. Through experiences ranging from the melancholy to the surreal, as a protagonist, Eo is a captivating presence on screen. Although he provides no dialogue, the levels of emotion that are conveyed through his actions and the camera work almost makes you forget that there are no words being spoken.
One of the biggest takeaways from the film is the breadth of the issue of how we treat animals, both domestic and wild. The impactful nature of our actions towards them, and how they impact us is explored greatly, however the characterisation doesn’t stray into purely good and evil. From a well-meaning but awkward lorry driver to a dissatisfied priest, the sheer variety of people that he encounters is interesting to see but also still plausible.
This was selected for the Cannes Jury Prize, and several critic’s awards, showing that this is a film for cinephiles. The visuals are like nothing I’ve seen before, and the film is a sensory explosion: the award-winning soundtrack by Paweł Mykietyn is paired with searing visual effects. The opening sequence feels like being thrown around on a fairground ride, and throughout the film, there is a harsh juxtaposition of desolate grey woodlands to searing red tinted frames. Although this sounds like it would be too jarring with the subject matter, it works well. Mixed through the story is also some beautiful scenery of Central and Eastern Europe, and interesting insights into small town life.
Although this features European cinema heavyweight Isabelle Huppert, perhaps the most tender performance comes from Polish actress Sandra Drzymalska, who also starred in Carlo Sironi’s 2019 drama Sole.
Overall, this is a haunting call to all to reconsider their opinions and actions towards animals, whist still exhibiting the strong love many have for them. I would defy anyone not to be moved by this film and its message.
Eo is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 10 – Wednesday 15 March.