LOFT FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Celebrated Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski’s masterfully crafted EO, which the filmmaker co-wrote with Ewa Piaskowska, tells the odyssey of a runaway circus donkey portrayed by six animals. EO (Taco, Ola, Marietta, Ettore, Rocco, and Mela) performs in the ring to the crowds in an act with his beloved circus girl, Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska). His traveling circus is set upon by regulators who dissolve the business to release the animals.
EO winds up at a therapy ranch where he gets petted and ridden by children. However, a secret visit at night from Kasandra props EO to run after her. This sets the donkey on a series of adventures across Europe. EO winds up working in the fashion industry as a model. He spends some time as a football hooligan for a local club. At one point, the donkey gets mixed up with furriers. All this time, EO searches far and wide for his lost circus girl, Kassandra.
Right from the get-go, I can see why Skolimowski has been a big deal as a director for such a long time. The filmmaking in EO is stunning. I lost count of the number of times poetic images yanked the air out of my lungs. A film with this many breathtaking visuals should come with a health disclaimer and a portable oxygen tank. The mixture of the fantastic amidst the mundane is finely calculated to spark awe repeatedly.
“…EO searches far and wide for his lost circus girl, Kassandra.”
The donkeys playing the lead — Taco, Ola, Marietta, Ettore, Rocco, and Mela — are wonderful. It is no wonder Skolimowski thanked them all by name in speeches about the film. You won’t believe how expressive a donkey can be. It makes the long-gestating movie adaptation of Dominic the Donkey seem very worthwhile. As arty as it can get at times, the narrative remains easy to follow. It’s emotionally engaging. The audience I saw this with was audible cheering on the donkey.
Overall, EO is the sad clown version of The Black Stallion. It would almost be appropriate for families if the plot didn’t keep detouring to bummer town. At the end is a message that the movie was inspired by a love of animals. While this is true, it was also driven by a disdain for humanity. Skolimowski makes grim societal observations about how humans behave around the donkey. The world’s inhumanity is exposed along the way until the nihilistic finale. It starts to blur as to whether the filmmaker is commenting on modern society’s cruelness or if he is suggesting existence itself is a futile pursuit. Whatever his intent, there are several swift kicks to your emotional nut sack.
Mind you, I don’t demand sugar-coating or surefire-happy endings. Me and abject desolation in cinema go way back. However, when it is concerning a wayward donkey who found his way into my heart, I would rather the story take some unrealistic turns. EO is an incredible film, but do be aware it does skew bitter, especially at the finale.
EO screened at the 2022 Loft Film Festival.
"…an incredible film..."