CANNES FESTIVAL: “EO,” no animals were harmed in the making of this film

CANNES, France — Making a movie about a donkey,or to be more specific, from a donkey’s point of view is an audacious project. But that’s just what Jerzy (pronounced “Ya-shee”) Skolimosky did and his film, a slow and oppressive rumination on humans and their relationship to the animal world was screened here on Thursday.

A circus troupe. A grey donkey and his handler Kassandra. The animal seems happy, even though he’s in a circus.

But it gets shipped off elsewhere and various episodes of servitude and unpleasantness at the hand of cruel people ensue, punctuated by the occasional freedom. Still, the donkey bears witness to various cycles of animal cruelty, from circus life to beasts going to the slaughterhouse to be quartered for meat and awfully-deteriorated foxes languishing in wire cages, the same ones that animal protection groups have decried because they are uncomfortable for animals to sleep and walk on. The donkey watches with black and humid eyes.

This film, which is competing for a Palme D’Or, is just as much psychedelic contemplation on the cruelty that our animal friends suffer at our hand as it is an indulgent and uncynical work of fiction.

There’s something eerie about “EO” (“EO” is the onomatopeia of a donkey braying and squealing), a film that Skolimowsky dreamed up as tribute to Robert Bresson’s “Au hasard Balthazar.”

The jarring music, the red filter used in a scene, the occasional distortion of the image, they combine to give the film its otherwordly nature but also to impress what the images on the screen are meant to reveal. That we over-consume and that animal cruelty must be avoided.

Skolimowsky says, “… the only film that moved me to tears was [Bresson’s] “Au hasard Balthazar… Since then, I haven’t shed a single tear at the cinema.”

“EO” confronts you on personal choice. Its story of a kindly animal who would prefer avoiding us inhabits you and continues to live within you afterward.