The animal has appeared in no less than three films this year, in very different forms.
From “At random Balthazar“ to “Shrek”, from “Winnie the Pooh” to “Antoinette in the Cévennes”, from “Donkey skin” to “The man who killed Don Quixote”, the donkey is regularly summoned to the cinema (the same could be said of literature). Not as much as the dog, the cat or the horse, certainly, but more than the cow, the pig or the goat. The donkey is halfway between a pet and a farm animal, just good enough to serve its masters before ending up in the slaughterhouse. A good bad-tempered friend, as useful as he is ungrateful. A perfect character, in short.
No doubt by coincidence, of those from which we like to draw conclusions, the donkey appeared in three films this year. Three “arty” films, noticed at festivals and nominated for the Oscars, where equines have been martyred and have never ceased to challenge the very idea of humanity. What can this triple presence tell us? What is at stake in this mysterious gaze that is impossible not to anthropomorphize?
Three films, three donkeys
Let’s start with the most anecdotal – and most detestable – appearance of the three: Without filter. In his sadly webbed film, Ruben Östlund summons a poor eeyore to kill him immediately, the victim of a handful of castaways stranded on an island they believe to be deserted, and soon to be haunted. The howling beast will turn out to be just a donkey braying in pain, before ending up as a steak without having had the opportunity to exist as a character. Which does not fundamentally differentiate him from his executioners, that said. No more humanity here in men than in animals – to your laughter and applause, ladies and gentlemen.
Martin McDonagh shows a little more subtlety and tenderness with his donkey in The Banshees of Inisherin (released this December 28 in theaters). The brave Jenny indeed becomes the best friend by substitution of Padraic (Colin Farrell) when his old comrade Colm (Brendan Gleeson) dismisses him abruptly. We are there in the sentimental vision of the beast, whose fidelity and innocence compensate for the wickedness of men. But as a result, the sequel is all the more unacceptable, the scriptwriting cruelty only more arbitrary. As in bad tragedies, we would like to cry, we are above all annoyed.
The last member of the donkey 2022 promo is undoubtedly the most inhabited, the most touching, the most disturbing. In Eo by Jerzy Skolimowski, the eponymous donkey is not a companion but the main character, through whose eyes and ears we will experience the absurdity of a condition. Which obviously makes him a cousin of the Bressonian Balthazar. We identify, we rejoice, we shudder for him. But unlike the horses he rubs shoulders with in a memorable scene – one of many – Eo is a commoner. An outsider seen as inferior, at best nice, at worst asshole. A damned of the earth, whose International struggles however to come.
The donkey, or the eternal mirror of the soul.
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Why the donkey is the best movie character in 2022 – Les Inrocks