The European Film Awards is seemingly becoming the award of rehabilitation. Two years in a row directors of the film picking up the top prize Best European Film have refused to attend the award ceremony for fear of landing themselves in trouble.
Last year it was Roman Polanski who stayed at his Paris home and gave an acceptance speech via Skype when The Ghost Writer surprisingly swept the board. The director had spent some of 2010 under House arrest in Switzerland where he had faced possible extradition to the US on rape charges.
This year Lars Von Trier sent his wife to pick up the Best Film award for Melancholia. In doing so the director kept to his word that he would no longer make public comments after the ‘Nazi’ furore at Cannes this year, when the Dane was kicked out of competition for remarks made at the press conference for his film on depression.
Melancholia seemed destined to win the top prize from the moment that German presenter Anke Engelke walked to the stage wearing a wedding dress and started acting out a scene from the film. She then made an incredible faux pas when inviting Sylvie Tetsud rather than Irene Jacob to the stage to present the Best Animated Film prize. It was the first of many presenting gaffs that seemed to afflict many of the award presenters.
It was a night where nearly all the prizes seemed to go to Denmark or England. Suzanne Bier picked up the best director prize for her film about revenge In A Better World and Mads Mickelsen picked up the honorary Achievement in World Cinema 2011 award.
For the Brits, The King’s Speech was a big winner. Again! Colin Firth won best actor, Tariq Anwar best editor, and the film took the audience award. When director Tom Hooper picked up the prize he said that it was fitting that the first award for The King’s Speech was the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival and that the last prize the film would receive was another audience award. Yet what the speech actually highlighted was how dated and out of touch the European Film Awards can seem. The Toronto festival Hooper was talking about was in September 2010.
The awards failed to recognise The Artist outside of a minor sound award despite the silent film currently being touted as the European movie in with a chance at winning the Best Film prize at the Oscars. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the film is about the end of the silent era and the birth of the talkies. Jean Dujardin won the best actor award for his turn as a silent movie star that can’t cut it in talkies at the Cannes film festival.
Firth did not even show up here, and one can’t imagine any actor not picking up an Oscar. Also having something better to do was Tilda Swinton, awarded the best actress prize for We Need to Talk About Kevin. The surprise perhaps is that Swinton didn’t repeat that trick at the British Independent Film Awards last night, where Olivia Coleman was feted for her turn in Tyrannosaur.
Stephen Frears was lauded with the Lifetime Achievement Award and he thanked Lyndsay Anderson and Karel Reisz for inspiring him to become a director.
Terry Gilliam was awarded the Best Short Film Award for The Wholly Family, yet giving the prize to an old hand did give the sense that the Academy had decided to reward one of their own, rather than a new talent making their first inroads into the industry.
It was a night where the European Film Award decided to spread their awards around, and while no one film could claim to have won big, it was the Danish and British contingents that ended with the most smiles.