The news from the 2012 Berlin film awards

Melancholia may have been a devastatingly beautiful film about the end of the world but there was a happy ending for the film this weekend at the 24th European Film Awards in Berlin where it took the coveted award for European Film 2011. After his controversial comments at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Lars Von Trier has taken a vow of silence and will no longer appear at public events. The director asked his wife Bente Froge to appear at the ceremony on his behalf.

Froge kept her acceptance speech short and sweet, saying; “I should say from Lars that he has no message for you since he has decided not to make statements any more… and I really don’t know why! He asked me that I should wave to you in a very kind and friendly way”. Inevitably the talk at the Winners Press Conference was dominated by what the director was doing rather than attending the awards ceremony. Froge said; “He is at home, cooking. Tonight he is taking care of the children, now it’s my turn. This is a very long event. I think he would almost go crazy, but I think it’s too much for him, especially after what happened in Cannes so now he wants to concentrate on making the movie.”

Von Trier was ejected from Cannes this year, but the wins at the European Film Awards may have lessened the blow somewhat. Melancholia also walked away with the European Cinematographer and European Production Design Awards but lost out in the acting categories.

British actors scored a double whammy at the European Film Awards this weekend. The awards for European Actor and Actress 2011 went to Colin Firth for The Kings Speech and Tilda Swinton for We Need To Talk About Kevin. There was another British win on the night, American born director Terry Gilliam – who renounced his US citizenship in 2006 – took home the award for European Short Film for The Wholly Family. Gilliam quipped that he is going about his career backwards; “Things are rather strange here, you normally make short films, and you rise and you go on to make feature films. I seem to be working my way backwards, so this may be the end of what had been an interesting career, on the other hand it may be the start of, hopefully, a new one.” Gilliam also mentioned, “I used to make tall films, and now I make short films”.

Danish Director Susanne Bier won European Director for Haevnen (In a Better World) and Wim Wenders’ 3D documentary Pina won the European Film Academy Documentary 2011 – Prix Arte. As President of the European Film Academy, Wenders reminded Academy Members that they are not exempt from nomination; “As our board is made up of active film makers, producers, directors my fate can happen to all of you. I am not spared as President from being nominated, and I am thankful.”

Another honour for the UK; Stephen Frears was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his vast body of work as a director, including The Snapper, High Fidelity, My Beautiful Laundrette and Les Liasons Dangereuses. Frears’s acceptance speech was charming as he reminded the audience “I am just a bloke who makes films, and I hope the audience likes them”. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen was honoured with the European Achievement in World Cinema Award.

The film that lost out most on the night was Michel Hazanavicius’s silent film, The Artist. The Artist was a breakout hit at Cannes – having been moved into Competition at the last minute – but it did not succeed at the European Film Awards, despite early rumours suggesting that the film will dominate next year’s Oscars. Composer Ludovik Bource took home the European Composer Award for his romantic score for the film, but actor Jean Dujardin was snubbed for his endearing performance as George Valentin, a silent movie star who finds it hard to make the move into ‘talkies’.

Oscar rumours do not often translate to the European Film Awards, which honours a wide range of films that sometimes get overlooked on the world stage. Academy President, Wim Wenders said; We believe in the Academy as a successful example of independent, multicultural community. Since the very beginning, the Academy has always strove for openness and curiosity, for freedom of artistic expression and for cultural exchange.” Deputy Chairman Nik Powell added; “This is one of those coincidental years where the masters of European cinema have delivered work at the top of their game.”

The European Film Awards were first held in 1998, with the European Film Academy being established the following year, as a result of late night discussions at the Hotel Kempinski in Berlin between actors, directors and film makers of all disciplines. The European Film Awards aims to give exposure and profile to European films across the world.

Words – Brogen Hayes