Bente Frøge collected the statue on behalf of her husband when it was announced that Danish auteur Lars Von Trier's latest film, Melancholia (pictured), had secured the best film prize at the 24th European Film Awards, held in Berlin on Saturday evening.
“I have no message for you from Lars since he has decided not to make statements anymore,” she said, a reference to Von Trier's ultimate public stance after controversy erupted at the Cannes Film Festival – where Melancholia was in competition – over comments deemed by some to be anti-Jewish. “But he asked that I wave to you in a kindly and friendly way,” Frøge added.
Melancholia's visual strength, including its night-time sequences and planetary imagery, was also recognised on the weekend with European Film Awards going to cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro and production designer Jette Lehmann. Australians will be able to judge for themselves when Madman Films releases it in cinemas on December 15.
Susan Bier, another Dane, was voted best director for her work on In a Better World, and her compatriot, actor Mads Mikkelsen, who is in many of Bier's films, was honoured for his contribution to world cinema.
That said, two veteran British actors won the two key acting categories, being Tilda Swinton, for her distraught performance as the mother in We Need to Talk about Kevin, and Colin Frith, for his depiction of King George VI learning not to stutter in The King's Speech, which also won the people's choice award.
When British director Stephen Frears accepted his lifetime achievement award he talked of being “seduced” by European cinema and made reference to his habit of making “cheerful” films.
Veteran French actor Michel Piccoli, who has appeared in more than 200 productions, was the third recipient, alongside Frears and Mikkelsen, to be recognised for his body of work.
Belgian filmmaking duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne wooed the judges in the screenwriting category with The Kid with a Bike, Chico & Rita was judged best animated feature, and the documentary award went to Pina, Wim Wenders' tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch.
The awards are voted on by the 2,500 members of the European Film Academy and the ceremony is held at different places in the region. The last time they were held in Berlin was in 2007.
Meanwhile, on the next day over in London, Tyrannosaur was named best film, its director Paddy Considine best debut director, and leading lady Olivia Colman best actress at the 14th British Independent Film Awards. Colman plays a respectable Christian lady working in a charity shop who meets an unemployed and volatile widower in the film, which is being released in Australia on February 23 by Madman.
Lynne Ramsay won the directing category for her adaptation of Lionel Schriver's novel We Need to Talk about Kevin, Richard Ayoade won the screenplay accolade for Submarine, and Michael Fassbender was honoured for his performance in Shame. Iranian film A Separation was judged best foreign film and Senna the best documentary. Ralph Fiennes, Kenneth Branagh and Graham Easton were also among the prize winners.
The 2011 European Film Award winners are:
European film 2011: Melancholia (Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany), writer/director Lars Von Trier, producers Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth
Director: Susanne Bier, In A Better World
Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Screenwriter: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, The Kid with A Bike
Cinematographer: Manuel Alberto Claro, Melancholia
Editor: Tariq Anwar, The King's Speech
Production designer: Jette Lehmann, Melancholia
Composer: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
European Discovery: Oxygen (Belgium/The Netherlands), writer/director Hans Van Nuffel
European Film Academy Documentary 2011 – Prix ARTE: Pina (Germany), writer/director Wim Wenders, Germany
Animated Feature: Chico & Rita, directors Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba
Short: The Wholly Family (Italy), Terry Gilliam.
European co-production award: Mariela Besuievsky (Spain)
European Achievement In World Cinema: Mads Mikkelsen (Denmark)
European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement: Stephen Frears (UK)
Special Honorary Award: Michel Piccoli (France)
People's Choice Award: The King's Speech, director Tom Hooper (UK)
The 2011 British Independent Film Award winners are:
Best British independent film: Tyrannosaur
Director: Lynne Ramsay, We Need to Talk about Kevin
Screenplay: Richard Ayoade, Submarine
Actress: Olivia Colman, Tyrannosaur
Actor: Michael Fassbender, Shame
Supporting actress: Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
Supporting actor: Michael Smiley, Kill List
The Douglas Hickox Award (for best debut director): Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur
Most Promising Newcomer: Tom Cullen, Weekend
Best Achievement in Production: Weekend
The Raindance Award: Leaving Baghdad
Best technical achievement: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Maria Djurkovic (production design)
Foreign independent film: A Separation
The Richard Harris Award (for outstanding contribution by an actor to British film): Ralph Fiennes
The Variety Award: Kenneth Branagh
The Special Jury Prize: Graham Easton