Through a Donkey’s Eyes
Taking its cues from Robert Bresson’s 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar, director Jerzy Skolimowski’s feature EO follows the wayward journey of a Polish circus donkey as he experiences some of the many hues of humanity. Featuring cinematography by Michał Dymek, PSC, the movie premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, earning a Jury Award for Skolimowski, and is now nominated for a Best International Feature Film Oscar.
“I would describe the look of EO as a fusion of youth and experience mixed with hunger for visual madness and the love of filmmaking seen through a donkey’s eyes,” muses Dymek, who worked with Panavision Warsaw to assemble his camera and lens package. “Our movie references included the documentary films of Bogdan Dziworski, Federico Fellini’s 8½ and Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux. From art, our references were the paintings of Leon Tarasewicz and Tomasz Tatarczyk and the works of Antony Gormley. In addition, I was searching for inspiration by observing reality and trying to understand my surroundings. I also spent some time on Instagram looking for creativeness.”
Dymek traces his journey toward photographing EO back to his youth. “From a young age and throughout my teenage years, I extensively trained Judo until one day I was seriously injured during a ‘fight,’” the cinematographer reflects. “My entire upper body was covered in a plaster cast, and I only had one working arm. That was the moment, totally by coincidence, a photography camera landed in my hand. It was love at first sight, and since then, it’s never left my side.
“I quickly became fascinated by the power of photography and how it’s able to communicate a story to a spectator without any sound,” Dymek continues. “My fascination grew into a strong passion, which led me to leave my athletic ambitions and instead pursue a career in cinematography. I applied and got accepted to the Polish Film School, which changed my life. That’s how everything started.”
As a cinematographer, Dymek draws his creative motivation from a variety of sources. “What keeps me the most inspired is a belief that in the world of countless cinematic stories, there are still chances to tell something that will move viewers in the cinema,” he offers. “Speaking more visually, I try to observe and find as many beautiful, interesting, and strange moments possible in my daily surroundings. At the same time, I also watch a lot of good movies and read scripts.”
As EO’s critical reception attests, the story has moved viewers in cinemas around the world. “EO offered me unbelievable artistic freedom, which I have never had before in my short professional career,” Dymek says. “At the same time, it meant a lot of responsibility, and I needed to deliver. I am forever grateful to the director, Jerzy Skolimowski.”