at the height of a donkey, Jerzy Skolimowski delivers a sensitive film on the animal condition

published on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 2:05 p.m.

The wandering of a donkey prey to the madness of men: in official competition at Cannes, “Eo” (Hi-han in French), by Polish Jerzy Skolimowski, dares to make the animal the main character of a film to spectacular photography.

Eo is pampered by his mistress Kadandra, a circus artist, whose attentions and caresses he loves, until the day when animal activists, ironically, have him “liberated” by sending him to a farm from which he escapes.

From there begins a solitary journey – despite a few encounters with horses – from the Polish fields to the Italian Alps, which Jerzy Skolimowski films at the height of his withers. To the rhythm of Eo’s breath, powerful or jerky, difficult when he gets hurt, and in his big sad eyes, the viewer shares the donkey’s distress.

The beauty of the images seizes, from dreamlike forests in the grip of imaginary flames to the mountains immortalized in sepia, as much as disturbs the violence of the sounds, cracking of the whip or bestial cries.

Jerzy Skolimowski reverses the roles: the donkey, all in innocence and sensitivity, is confronted with beastly and stupid humans, as if devoid of soul, or else prey to madness.

Eo, a domestic animal, nevertheless stubbornly seeks human company, as in this burlesque scene where he accompanies, willy-nilly, a troupe of drunken sports fans in a country bar.

The man who locks up, submits, brutalizes animals, invites himself into this nightmarish scene where Eo walks, frightened, through a night forest, until he comes across a dying wolf, hit by bullets.

After seven years away from the screens, at 84, Jerzy Skolimowski wanted to pay homage to the “only film which (him) had moved him to tears”: Robert Bresson’s “Random Balthazar” (1966), from which he is largely inspired .

“I hope this film touches the most human hearts and brains”, declared Jerzy Skolimowski in a video released Friday at Cannes, also denouncing “the fact that man uses the animal for its meat or its fur” . The director, victim of a fall, could not go to Cannes and is currently hospitalized in Warsaw.

The violence denounced by the film never had its place on the set, he insists, explaining that “with my donkey, the only way to persuade him to do anything was tenderness”.

Born in 1938 in Lodz, central Poland, Jerzy Skolimowski was deeply marked by the Second World War. Pillar of the New Wave in this country in the 1960s, he notably filmed “Deep End”, “Black work”, “Success at all costs”…

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