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‘EO’: The Gorgeously hypnotic new film about a donkey whose journey will break your heart

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One could liken EO to an immigrant who is forced to work, and how people in the country treat him, kindly and cruelly.

GARY M. KRAMER: Gorgeously filmed, experimental in style, and incredibly humanistic, “EO,” recounts the experiences of the titular donkey — frequently from the animal’s point of view. The film is Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski’s (“Four Nights With Anna”) homage to Robert Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar,” and it arrives with bona fides, having won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and is Poland’s selection as their official Oscar entry for Best International Film.

EO is first seen under a red strobe light with surging music. He is a circus animal who is cared for by Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska) who is part of the Cyrk Orion. She feeds EO and gives him affection, and the donkey is wonderfully expressive even as the camera follows him trotting along. But protesters against animal abuse in the circus cause EO to be “repossessed” and taken from Kasandra. Viewers can see the sadness in his eyes.

The film then shows all the different experiences EO has on his own as he moves through the Polish countryside. The story is, of course, a metaphor with EO as the innocent who encounters all kinds of people. One could liken the animal to an immigrant who is forced to work — EO is seen hitched to a cart in his early scenes — or a symbol for Poland and how people in the country treat him, kindly and cruelly…

There are children who pet him and ride him and others who exploit him. In one adorable moment, he munches on a carrot tied around his neck. There are folks who are gentle, such as Kasandra, who locates him in one charming scene and feeds him a muffin for his birthday. His braying when she leaves him is heartbreaking…

But as the film progresses, it has EO interacting with people. When he is near a soccer pitch, EO has an impact on a game during a penalty kick. He is taken to the afterparty by the winning team, and has smoke blown in his face. He is a passive participant as windows are broken but EO is beaten by hooligans. There are questions raised about his suffering as he is passed around and EO ends up on a farm where foxes are killed for their fur…

Such is the film’s narrative logic, and perhaps it is best to just let the film wash across the screen, not unlike a hypnotic series of slow-motion scenes of water near the film’s end. Viewers can make connections or interpret people, or actions, or emotions as desired. EO is not going to judge, but he is going to tell you what to think or feel, which is perhaps the beauty and brilliance of this uncommon film. SOURCE…

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