Aesop told fables with animals to teach about human nature. In the Torah we find a story of Balaam and his donkey in which the donkey sees what Balaam cannot. EO is the story of a donkey, but it is also a story about us. EO is Poland?s entry for Best International Feature Oscar consideration.
Director Jerzy Skolimowski has created in EO a fitting homage to Robert Bresson?s 1966 film Au hasard Balthazar. Knowledge of Au hasard Balthazar is not needed to appreciate this film, but those familiar with it will find their viewing of this film enhanced. The Bresson film was viewed by many as reflecting the suffering of Christ. EO is not a remake, but it certainly has thematic resonance.
EO is a trained donkey who has spent his life performing in a circus. When animal rights group force the circus to quit using animals, EO is sent away from the only home he?s known and the woman who loves him. Thus begins this four-legged Odysseus?s journey. Along the way he?ll encounter kind people and cruel people. He will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He will escape danger. He?ll be rescued. He?ll be beaten. He encounters an Italian priest and a countess. He becomes a soccer mascot, and then a scapegoat to soccer rowdies. He carries burdens, and he lives freely.
This is not so much a movie we watch as a movie we feel. It is emotionally evocative. We fear for EO. We rejoice when he finds love. Whereas Au hasard Balthazar focused more on the human cruelty that the donkey encountered, EO mixes cruelty with kindness, humor, indifference, and fear. Sort of like what life is like for us all.
EO is not fable or metaphor, but we connect with the donkey in such a way that we feel we know his life?because the various events, challenges, and people that make up this journey are so like what we face in our own. By the end, that emotional connection we have developed will lead us to consider even deeply existential questions of our world?ones we share with animals such as EO.
EO is in limited release.
Photos courtesy of Janus Films.