EO Oscar candidate 2023 is proof that we need more animal perspectives in films – Liukin

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None of the six donkeys who star in Jerzy Skolimowski’s Oscar nominee E.O will receive a statuette at the 2023 Oscars, even if the film pulls off an unlikely upset in the Best International Feature category against its toughest competition, Edward Berger’s. All quiet on the western front. Animals are not eligible for Academy Awards, although many Academy Award-nominated films have featured animal actors, such as Terry (Toto in The Wizard of Oz) and Popcorn Deelites (Seabiscuit in sea ​​cake).

but focused E.O about a donkey as a subject rather than an object, as a protagonist rather than a secondary character, is what makes Skolimowski’s film a unique experience, both within and outside the context of the Oscars. Who does winning Best International Feature Film will be completely conventional compared to E.Oa film that makes the best argument yet that films need more animal perspectives.

Skolimowski, the eclectic veteran Polish filmmaker, painter and actor behind films like essential murder and 11 minutes (and a bit player, oddly enough, in the 2012 MCU film the Avengers), filters E.O through the eyes of its protagonist, an adorable, lonely and lost donkey who roams the Polish and Italian countryside. as much as a camera can cinematographer Michał Dymek tries to show the public the world according to an animal. EO’s eyes are Dymek’s constant, an anchor he returns to repeatedly for reaction shots between depictions of the worst and best of humanity. The donkeys playing EO cannot act or react as a human actor would: he is calm, calm and cool. But his unrestrainedness is an invitation to reflect on how he sees what we see.

EO, a poor donkey who roams Europe in search of his caretaker, is seen in extreme close-up from the side in a shot of EO.

Photo: Janus Films

Skolimowski’s contribution to the “sad ass” niche of cinema joins films like the 1966 Au Hazard Balthazaralong with the Oscar 2022 nominated examples triangle of sadness and The Banshees of Inisherin. It’s also like movies about creatures that aren’t donkeys, like Kelly Reichardt’s. first cow and Michael Sarnoski Pig: productions that respect their animal companions as characters, but still hand over the narrative reins to humans.

E.O it is a constant tragedy. Heartbreak is built into the film’s tagline: EO, a donkey happily performing to adoring circus crowds with his keeper, Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), is taken from his custody by the state. After a series of transfers from one owner to another, he escapes and wanders during creation, apparently trying to get back to Cassandra. Their misadventures along the way range from the heartwarming to the bizarre to the horrifying.

EO, the donkey protagonist of the 2023 Oscar contender EO, ​​crosses an arched bridge in front of a large dam spouting white, frothy water from a series of spillways.

Photo: Janus Films

“The State” in this film is run by a pompous government official who, after releasing the circus menagerie of performers, pats himself on the back by talking about “fixing the wrongdoing.” Skolimowski makes his point right here: The people least qualified to manage animal welfare are those in positions of power, rather than people like Cassandra, whose love for EO is tender and unconditional. It is true that one of Cassandra’s circus companions does he abuses EO, but he doesn’t treat people much differently. Throughout the film, there are countless ambassadors for human-animal bonds who have stronger credentials than he does.

The farmers who welcome the EO in their stable; children with special needs who visit the farm and shower it with love and cuddles; soccer fans who adopt him as a mascot after winning a match against their rivals; Richling Vito (Lorenzo Zurzolo), who takes EO from the scene of the crime to his family villa and talks to him like an old friend instead of some random donkey – these characters represent humanity in the best possible way as animal welfare managers. .

On the other hand, it is the furrier who kills caged foxes; he losing the violent hooligan fans of football teams who take out their frustrations on EO; and the hunters who sneak through the foreboding forests at night, lighting their way with green laser sights. Together, they form the “people suck” side of E.Othe journey of

But reducing the film to that misanthropic message does not serve Skolimowski’s task. E.O It sugarcoats nothing: humanity’s darkest tendencies are shown in relentless detail, to the point of murder. (Vito’s dealings with his passionate stepmother, played by Isabelle Huppert with her usual level of unrelenting intensity, don’t suggest much faith in human relationships either.) But there is light in that darkness, a source of goodwill to the man, everything. reflected in the bottomless depth of EO’s gaze. He is aware of the kindnesses shown to him and the cruelties inflicted on him, even when he is not the focus of the frame, or not in the frame at all. And he realizes that he misses his caretaker and hopes to return to her, to the point where he leaves idyllic security to go find her, while donkey POV flashes make it clear what he’s thinking.

EO, the main donkey in the Oscar-nominated (2023) EO, hangs out in a horse trailer with a dark-haired man who looks deep into his eyes.

Photo: Janus Films

It is rare that the Oscars recognize a film as E.O, where an animal takes the lead and humans play the secondary role. If the Academy ignored the recommendations of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert Everything everywhere at once, E.O he would undoubtedly be the most unique candidate of the year. For everyone everything everywhereThe idiosyncrasies of, however, the Daniels are invested in the human condition, explored from a human point of view.

E.O invest in the animal point of view. Not even sea ​​cake you can make that claim. The question of observed experience is essential; While every movie is an opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes, movies rarely offer the same opportunity for animals. And from the movies that do, almost none of them reach the kind of stage that the Academy Awards provide. The Academy could use more movies like E.O – but above all, moviegoers could too.

E.O is streaming on The Criterion Channeland is available for rent or purchase at Amazon, voodooand other digital platforms.

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