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‘Anatomy of a Fall’ Wins Best Film at 2023 European Film Awards

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Justine Triet’s acclaimed French courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall has won best film at the 2023 European Film Awards, held Saturday evening, Dec. 9 in Berlin.

Sandra Hüller, a double nominee in the best actress category, won for her barnstorming turn in Anatomy of a Fall as a writer who may have killed her husband.

Accepting her prize, Hüller, speaking to the various conflicts raging in and around Europe at the moment, called for a moment of silence from the audience to “silently, strongly, vividly, imagine peace.”

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Justine Triet took the best directing honor for Anatomy and shared the best screenplay honor with Arthur Harari for their joint script to the twisty murder mystery. A couple in real life, Triet and Harari said writing the script, which is a piercing dissection of a marriage in crisis, “put our relationship to the test but thankfully we survived.”

Anatomy of a Fall is not France’s official submission for the 2024 Oscar race but the film, which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, is considered an awards contender in the main categories.

Danish star Mads Mikkelsen took the best actor honor for his lead performance in Nikolaj Arcel’s Western epic The Promised Land.

Alongside Anatomy of a Fall, other best film nominees included Jonathan Glazer’s harrowing Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest, Aki Kaurismäki dark, droll Finnish love story Fallen Leaves, Matteo Garrone’s Io Capitano from Italy, and Agnieszka Holland’s Polish drama Green Border.

The evening got off to a swinging start with the prize for best documentary going to Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, Estonia’s official Oscar entry in the best international feature category. Instead of typical thank you from the stage, director Anna Hints led her cast and crew in a singalong acceptance speech.

Molly Manning Walker won the European Discovery prize, for best debut feature, for her sleeper hit How to Have Sex, which premiered to critical acclaim in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section this year.

Pablo Berger’s dog-and-robot buddy movie Robot Dreams took the EFA for best-animated feature. Accepting his prize, Berger chanted “Animation is not a genre!”

The European Young Audience Award, voted on by the teen members of the EFA’s European Film Club, went to Charlotte Regan’s British father-daughter dramedy Scrapper, which premiered at Sundance.

Austrian “pseudo-Marxist” art collective Total Refusal won the EFA for best short film for Hardly Working, which follows non-player characters (NPCs) from the 2018 Western game Red Dead Redemption 2, framing their endless routines of pointless activity as a parable of the lives of workers under capitalism.

Politics could not be avoided at this year’s awards. Ahead of the live award broadcast, Agnieszka Holland, President of the European Film Academy, addressed the audience, referencing the challenging political landscape for the EFA, with “the war in Ukraine still raging, the conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijan and the terrible events of Oct.7,” referencing the Hamas attacks on Israel and the ongoing war in Gaza.

“These past weeks have angered, disappointed and shocked,” added European Film Academy Chair Mike Downey, noting that the Academy has “members on all sides” of these conflicts. “We have Russian members, we have Ukrainian members, we have Israeli members we have Palestinian members.”

Given current events, Holland said, it was not easy “to feel proud or to feel hopeful” and she asked, rhetorically, “Who dares to speak out? Who dares to defend our Jewish friends in Europe? Who dares to show solidarity with millions of suffering Palestinians? Do we act instead of speaking?”

European Film Academy CEO Matthijs Wouter Knol called the academy “an institution that builds a community” in Europe that strives to create a space for all EFA members, on whatever side of the political or national divides they land, “to talk, to listen and to understand each other.”

EFA’s Excellence Awards, the craft section of the European Film Awards, were announced ahead of Saturday’s gala. Arcel’s 18th-century Danish Western The Promised Land picked up best cinematography honors for. J.A. Bayona‘s real-life drama Society of the Snow won best visual effects for Félix Bergés and Laura Pedrobest and best hair and make-up for Ana López-Puigcerver, Belén López-Puigcerver, David Martí and Montse Ribé. The Zone of Interest won best sound design for Johnnie Burn and Tarn Willers, and Laurent Sénéchal took the best editing prize for his work on Anatomy of a Fall. Emita Frigato won the EFA for best production design for Rohwacher’s Italian drama La Chimera, and Markus Binder took best score for his soundtrack to Jessica Hausner’s health cult satire Club Zero starring Mia Wasikowska.

The European Film Academy also presented several filmmakers with honorary accolades. Spanish director Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me, The Bookshop) got the European Achievement in World Cinema Award. Spanish actress Laia Costa, presenting Coixet with the prize, noted how the director has always been a “door opener” for women in the industry, noting that on their recent film Un Amor, “90 percent of the people on set were women. It makes a difference.”

Referencing the political statements from earlier in the night, Coixet said that “very early in my career I realized that behind a camera there are no borders, there are no flags, there are no passports and there are no limits.”

Oscar-winning British actress Vanessa Redgrave (Julia, Howards End) received the European Lifetime Achievement honor. Legendary Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr (The Turin Horse, Werckmeister Harmonies) received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the EFA crowd when Mike Downey presented him with the Honorary Award of the Academy President and Board. It’s a rare achievement. Tarr is only the sixth filmmaker to be so honored, following directors Manoel de Oliveira, Andrzej Wajda and Costa-Gavras, and actors Michel Piccoli and Michael Caine.

“I am shocked. Swear to god, I really don’t know what to say. Maybe you overestimated my capacity,” said Tarr. “I was speaking to young people, this morning, and they asked for my advice. I don’t have advice. Just that they have to find their own language, they have to be brave and they have to fuck off the film industry. If they don’t have money, don’t worry. They have a phone, they can shoot movies on your phone, they can edit on your computer and distribute over the internet. The most important thing, they have to be free. All of us have to be free.”

The Euroimages European Co-Production Award, honoring excellence in cross-border film production, went to Lithuanian-based producer Uljana Kim. Through her company, Studio Uljana Kim, she has produced some 34 features and documentaries, almost all co-productions, including The Gambler (2013), Teesklejad (2016) and The Year Before the War (2021). Kim dedicated her award to the late German producer Karl Baumgartner, a co-production pioneer.

From outside the film business, Turkish executive Güler Sabancı, chairperson of Sabancı Holding, received the European Sustainability Award, for her philanthropic work to promote sustainability practices across multiple sectors.

Full list of winners for the 2023 European Film Awards

European Film

Anatomy of a Fall, dir. Justine Triet

European Documentary

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, dir. Anna Hints

European Director

Justine Triet for Anatomy of a Fall

European Actress

Sandra Hüller in Anatomy of a Fall

European Actor

Mads Mikkelsen in The Promised Land

European Screenwriter

Justine Triet and Arthur Harari for Anatomy of a Fall

European Discovery – Prix FIPRESCI

How To Have Sex, dir. Molly Manning Walker

European Animated Feature Film

Robot Dreams, dir. Pablo Berger

European Short Film

Hardly Working, dir. Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf

European Cinematography

Rasmus Videbaek for The Promised Land

European Editing

Laurent Sénéchal for Anatomy of a Fall

European Score

Markus Binder for Club Zero

European Production Design

Emita Frigato for La Chimera

European Costume Design

Kicki Ilander for The Promised Land

European Visual Effects

Félix Bergés and Laura Pedrobest for Society of the Snow

European Hair and Make-Up

Ana López-Puigcerver, Belén López-Puigcerver, David Martí and Montse Ribé for Society of the Snow

European Sound Design

Johnnie Burn and Tarn Willers for The Zone of Interest

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