Never in a million years did I imagine that a freaking donkey would deliver the best acting performance of the year! But man, if Poland’s already-award-winning film EO, which centers on a circus donkey and its various travels throughout the nation, didn’t deliver an outstanding film. Director Jerzy Skolimowski and his team created a film that is so captivating that you will think you are watching a documentary, until you realize that EO is a good old fashions fictional film, which will intrigue you even more as this donkey (or donkeys as there was more than one animal performer for the lead role) was acting its ass off!
Right off the top, the true star of EO is the titular donkey (whose name is in fact “EO,” hence the title of the film). In fact, we don’t really have a main human character to follow throughout the film. Director Jerzy Skolimowski and writers Ewa Piaskowska and Jerzy Skolimowski (despite the fact that we as humans like to follow the story of a relatable human person in a movie) rapidly make you fall in love with the donkey and the numerous adventures it has. In addition to expertly capturing the scenery, Michal Dymek’s cinematography for EO also captures every emotion in the donkey’s expressive eyes, giving the audience a genuine sense of what the animal is thinking throughout the entire movie.
The donkey is shown to be a circus performer in the opening scene of EO. Numerous animal rights demonstrators were there, but despite that, EO’s circus performance went smoothly. That is only temporary because the circus owes money to creditors, and the only collateral they have to pay is the animals. To pay off the debt, the creditors remove the donkey and two camels from the circus. And so begins the donkey’s cross-country adventure. The donkey changes owners several times during the course of the following 88 minutes, yet never to the animal’s detriment. The only scene that can be perceived as cruel is a bunch of soccer fans who after the donkey brings them good luck to win a game, they adopt it as their mascot and take it to a bar to celebrate. EO tends to be our guide through exploring different aspects of life in Poland and Polish culture. As soon as the donkey sees one aspect of the country, it walks to the nearest open gate and goes to explore another.
Overall, EO is a true wonder of cinema. The movie is recounted from the perspective of a donkey, therefore there are a few abrupt edits that are meant to confuse the spectator about what is actually happening. This is done on purpose to thoroughly immerse us in the world of the donkey, as the donkey finds it confusing to move from person to person and experience all of their perceived strange habits. The cinematography, as already mentioned, is a chef’s kiss of visual poetry. The audience is entirely absorbed in the environment that this donkey is traveling through, hence there are no wasted frames in EO. It comes as no surprise that EO, which already won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, will represent Poland at the Oscars for Best International Feature Film. As a result of his unbridled love for animals, director Jerzy Skolimowski created a masterpiece that will captivate audiences worldwide.
EO is currently playing in select theaters.