Aneta i Filip Gębscy / Gutek Film / Skopia Film / Recorded Picture Company
IO is one of those films that is fiercely contested after the screening. What have you just been through? Feelings of overwhelming sadness? Growing despair in you for reasons that are difficult to understand? In-depth reflection on nature and the human species? Or perhaps the formal divestment of this work has left you indifferent to the title easel’s journey? Chances are, for many viewers of the production, the impressions of the show will freeze somewhere to the point of disappointment and delight. It couldn’t be otherwise, since the director Jerzy Skolimowski in his Cannes film festival award-winning story, he tells of bitterness and admiration; disappointment is brought by man, seemingly elusive specks of happiness – animals. The great master of cinema returns to the world of the 10th Muse as a visionary calling to the desert of human vices. He does it so subtly and uncompromisingly that IO there is no unambiguous species classification. The production is probably the closest thing to an existential treatise with an inherently pro-ecological message, but you won’t go wrong if you see a journalistic discourse on the state of modern civilization and the transient nature in this film. our eyes, or a universal parable about many dimensions of the reality that surrounds us. In his style, Skolimowski destroys the walls of artistic limitations, making his story take the form of a cinematic experiment. Such film experiences can be found as medicine in the current Tiende Museum. Authentic, deeply embedded emotions – even less.
The Polish artist’s new story – thanks in part to his own words – was described by some of the critics present at Cannes as a contemporary “interpretation” of an extremely moving production Good luck, Baltazar! from 1966. However, I have a problem with this approach: Skolimowski borrows from Robert Bresson just the idea of a story in the form of a donkey ride and surrealism to work in such a way that we can identify it as a peculiar tribute to the French “film painter”; so it is more “variation” than “interpretation”. Title IO it is an onomatopoeia—the animal’s name on the one hand, its characteristic whinny on the other. We will hear them for the first time in a circus where the donkey performs in front of the audience along with probably the only person concerned about his fate, Cassandra (Sandra Drzymalska). However, due to the turn of events, the Olympics embark on a totally unexpected journey: he goes to a horse farm, a therapeutic center for disabled children, to a stadium where fans of the winning team see him as a happy mascot, to a cruel breeder of fox fur, truck driver (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) and an Italian priest, stepson of a local magnate (Isabelle Huppert); the final leg of this journey, in turn, is expected to be as long as it is exciting. In sequences where Bresson’s surrealism dances the tango with elements of magical realism, Skolimowski leaves the audience with understatements. It’s not entirely clear how the donkey makes some parts of the journey; Because the realization measures are taken, the unity of place and time is systematically broken. Artistically, however, this trap has a wonderfully refreshing causal power – after all, the director wants you to view the presented world not with human eyes, but with donkey eyes. Only in this way do you see the reflection of the banality of life in them. And by the way, perhaps the most important expressions: sadness and beauty.
Thanks to the corset’s loosening or even shedding of formal constraints, Skolimowski is able to outline his history by superimposing different aesthetic layers, by no means obvious, yet complementary to each other. In addition, the director is not as lyrical and poetic as Bresson and does not want to share a game of morality with the viewer from the position of a wise man. He is more interested in what is subtle and beyond all words. What do you call the state in which IO is currently in? What can an animal feel? Why does Kassandra’s soft voice still ring in his head? For what reasons does he choose not entirely impulsive escapes? These questions are asked alongside the discrete diagnoses of modern civilization. On this matter, Skolimowski has a few bitter words for us: the creature that contributes most to breaking the circle of life is precisely the man, the same man who, immersed in the repetition of everyday patterns, has lost the ability to fully respect nature. However, the director goes one step further and observes with exceptional precision other important phenomena of contemporary reality: the situation of immigrants, the massive aggression of testosterone-packed football fans or the breaking of the network of interpersonal relationships. At the same time, he is an attentive observer of the art of living, therefore the moving fate of the donkey is sometimes intertwined on the screen with humorous aspects to evoke a satire on the contemporary bourgeoisie, belief in superstitions or mockery of the working attitudes taken alive from the communist era. If the common denominator for IO’s travel is the pursuit of what has irretrievably disappeared, then in Skolimowski’s journey it will probably be a desire for freedom and balance between different spheres of existence. I’m not sure if their pure forms are gone forever. However, I know that hardly anyone looks for them with such finesse as a Polish director.
I do not doubt that IO is one of the most intriguing films of recent years when it comes to the interface between visual and technical layers. Many viewers will wonder whether the individual screen sequences were carefully crafted, or whether nature aided Skolimowski in fulfilling his artistic vision by a blessing of fate – remember that when you see a fox over the head of a donkey passing through the forest or during scenes where IO’s behavior appears disorderly. Visual hypnosis is also the aftermath of the phenomenal work of Michał Dymek, who is responsible for the pictures, in whose hands the camera dances a dizzying dance, and this constantly returns to meditation on the eyes of the animal; the operator also allows himself to immerse the viewer in dreamy shots straight out of a nightmare, in which red color reigns almost intimidating with its intensity. Music that bombards us with monumentality works well Pawe Mykietyn, though, on the other hand, it raises questions about the legitimacy of its use in more subtle plot-level sequences. Among the actors, the biggest field to show off was Drzymalska, which sensationally conveyed Kassandra’s feelings for the donkey; it is a mixture of tenderness, empathy and contrasting naive and immature love. The rest of the cast members make a brief appearance on the screen, but it’s worth noting the deliberately exaggerated and memorable performance of French film legend Huppert.
Jerzy Skolimowski met IO wants to spread the emotional spectrum for the viewer – the latest film from the Polish director is a carefully balanced mix of emotion, sentiment, tenderness, but also fear and anxiety. The Creator has no soul-soothing balm for us; Nor does he share with the cinema viewer a will that would be passed on to the next generations of his followers. Skolimowski of 2022 is still a seeker of artistic expression and an unparalleled master of experimentation with form. He still wants to obey conventional norms and worn patterns, approach the directing craft without compromise and with the bravado that is so characteristic of him. This performance virtuosity won’t appeal to every viewer – some of them are sure to put the author’s efforts in a drawer labeled “unreal oddities.” However, it is worth that we all try it together, thinking about IO find an agreement. After all, we are faced with a shortage of films that would so strongly remind us today of the importance of cultivating cinematic experience and original ideas. In the screen economy era of endless grinding, it’s good to feel the power of changing perspective. The power to see new horizons.
I’ve been to Twin Peaks once, though it might as well have been South Park. I did not cry for Mufasa; However, I was deeply moved when a certain Guardian Devil organized a butcher shop in the stairwell. Long ago in America I wanted to experience my own Space Odyssey. I am constantly walking and looking, looking for little pieces of beauty. Great beauty.