An arthouse whodunit about sexual jealousy and simmering creative rivalry between two married writers was everyone’s envy at Saturday night’s European Film Awards (EFA) in Berlin, with Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall beating her competitors to take home four of the five major awards.
Centred around a deadly fall from the top floor of a chalet in the French Alps, Triet’s drama scooped the European equivalent of the Oscars’ coveted prizes for best film, best director and best screenwriter, as well as a best actress award for the film’s lead, Sandra Hüller.
German actor Hüller, who had entered the night having also been nominated for her role in Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, was the other big winner on the night. After winning best actress for cult comedy Toni Erdmann in 2016, the 45-year-old joined Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert, Carmen Maura and Charlotte Rampling in an elite circle of cinematic grand dames to have won the prize more than once.
Hüller, the actor for whom Triet said she had written Anatomy of a Fall, now appears a dead cert for a nomination at next year’s Academy Awards. Asked about her film’s Oscar aspirations, Tried said: “Now we are in the race, of course, we continue down that road.”
During her acceptance speech in Berlin, Hüller appealed to the audience to hold a minute’s silence and “imagine peace”, though she did not specify in which conflict.
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen won best actor for his role as a commoner turned captain in Nikolaj Arcel’s period drama The Promised Land.
Held at Berlin’s Arena venue next to the river Spree, the EFA had initially looked like a three-horse race between Anatomy of a Fall, The Zone of Interest, and Falling Leaves by the Finnish “master of silence” Aki Kaurismäki, the last two of which had received five nominations apiece in the major categories.
The award aims to recognise the best films of the last 12 months from geographical Europe, meaning works from EU and non-EU member states are included.
Glazer and Kaurismäki’s films had disappointing nights, with the former’s Auschwitz drama taking home only an award for best sound, while Triet’s film received six accolades in total.
Co-written by Triet and her husband, Arthur Harari, during the Covid lockdown, Anatomy of a Fall lays bare the resentments and sexual jealousies between Hüller’s character, Sandra, and that of her husband, Samuel (Samuel Theis), two writers with a habit of cannibalising their private lives for their own creative output. “We put our relationship to the test, but we survived,” she said during her acceptance speech.
Her partner said the film about the multilingual couple may also be a good sign for the future of Franco-German engine at the heart of the European Union. “Maybe this film will consolidate the German and French governments,” he said.
Other winners on the night were the sweaty-and-intimate documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, whose Estonian director, Anna Hints, gave her acceptance speech in the medium of song.
Two British directors announced themselves on the international scene: 30-year-old first-time British director Molly Manning Walker added to her Un Certain Regard award at Cannes by scooping the European Discovery prize for debuting directors with How to Have Sex, while Charlotte Regan, 29, received the Young Audience award for her comedy-drama Scrapper.
“What Charlotte and I have in common is that we want to change the way sets are run with care and with kindness,” Manning Walker told the press after the awards. “Hopefully that makes better work.”
Full list of awards
Best film Anatomy of a Fall
European Discovery (Fipresci prize) How to Have Sex
Best documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Best animated feature Robot Dreams
Best short film Hardly Working
Best director Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall
Best actress Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall
Best actor Mads Mikkelsen
Best screenwriter Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall
Best cinematography The Promised Land
Best editing Anatomy of a Fall
Best production design La Chimera
Best costume design The Promised Land
Best hair and makeup Society of the Snow
Best original score Club Zero
Best sound The Zone of Interest
Best visual effects Society of the Snow
EFA lifetime achievement award Vanessa Redgrave
European achievement in world cinema Isabel Coixet
European co-production award (Prix Eurimages) Uljana Kim
European university film award Anatomy of a Fall
Young audience award Scrapper
Sustainability award Güler Sabanci
Honorary Award of the Academy President and Board Béla Tarr
Source: The Guardian