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Movie Reviews

EO ★



Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Sandra Drzymalska, Lorenzo Zurzolo

Release Date: February 3rd 2023

I find it terribly painful writing this review. It is no surprise that my expectations going into Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO were exceptionally high given its critical acclaim, its Academy Award nomination and my utter admiration and love for Robert Bresson’s humanistic Au Hasard Balthazar. Yet other than EO’s front-facing narrative that uses a donkey as a vessel to spectate, witness and be impacted by human destruction, Jerzy’s efforts do not even come close to Bresson’s allegorical journey.

EO opens fantastically with a dropped frantic frame rate callback to the devastating outcome of Suspiria (2019), as we bear witness to the entrapped EO, who performs nightly at an industrial, beat-down carnival. Here, EO is cared for and looked after by Kasandra, played by Sandra Drzymalska. After a series of abusive encounters, EO and Kasandra is stripped of one another as EO enters the utterly futile and oppressive landscape of animal trafficking and illegal wildlife trade. At this point, five minutes into the narrative diegesis, as a spectator, I was entirely on board with what I had hoped would follow.

In Skolimowski’s attempt to portray humanity’s flailing, vulgar nature of society, he falls wholly short of what the film sets out to achieve and promote. EO will quite literally take its spectator away from a singular moment of potential emotional resonance and drown it all out in a flurry haze of hunting laser beams, overbearing endless classical needle drops, incessant blood-like colour-graded drone shots and constant eye-rolling acts of manufactured humanistic evil for the sake of provoking its audience. The entire piece feels dishonest in its architecture.

As the narrative plays out like some self-parody, with an attempt at critiquing the political climate of Poland, Jerzy shows glimmers of utter formal exuberance. The question is, to what end? By the end of the feature’s obvious coda, nothing is to be felt. Nothing felt for the atrocities of the acts committed on-screen by humans to animals, and I’ll go even as far as to say that the human-on-human violence carries absolutely no emotional weight at all. It feels completely unjust, and where Bresson’s masterwork Au Hasard Balthazar formulates perfectly in its depiction of finding empathy within the horrors of human existence and the fragility of corporeal suffering, EO bashes its spectator over the head, so much so that they become entirely numb for anything. All that its narrative has to emotionally offer. This tale should be devastating but devastatingly profound, not laden with insincerity.

However, I cannot take away from the performances of the animals featured in the EO curation. It is, once again, a failure of humanity.

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