European Film Awards: Anatomy of a Fall dominates evening with landslide of wins

Palme d’Or winner secures gongs for Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Film at Berlin event

Anna Hints, the director of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, bounds on to the stage of the Arena Berlin wearing a patchwork velvet opera coat and feather earrings.

“Instead of a speech, I’m going to do a song,” she trills as she accepts the award for Best European Documentary. She valiantly attempts to lead the auditorium in an improvised chant that rhymes “European Film Academy” with “All our friends and family”. It works better than you might expect.

Welcome to the 36th European Film Awards, the only awards bash that combines the old-school continental charm of phone-in era Eurovision, references to the upcoming European Parliamentary elections, and a wheelchair-accessible red carpet.

Ahead of the ceremony, European Film Academy (EFA) chief executive Matthijs Wouter Knol, chairmain Mike Downey, and Academy president Agnieszka Holland take care to emphasise the inclusive nature of the awards body, whose 4,600 members hail from “geographical Europe” plus such associate members as Israel and Palestine.

READ MORE

“We have Ukrainian, Russian, Israeli and Palestinian members ... We want this to be a space to talk, to listen, to understand,” says Holland, as part of a joint statement. (Holland is a woman wearing many hats tonight: she’s also rightly nominated as Best Director and Best Screenplay for her work on Green Border.)

Dressed in a metallic animal-print dress and jumping around the audience, Ritta Steffenhagan, the ceremony’s zany presenter, lists all of the contributing European Film Academy countries, including warring states Armenia and Azerbaijan.

After last week’s big freeze, the snows had thawed across Berlin in time for the continent’s premiere film event.

It was still cold enough for several attendees to hang on to their jackets until the last minute. Sandra Hüller arrived in a padded coat but walked the red carpet in a black and white gown with chilly-looking cutouts.

She was, to the surprise of no one, subsequently named Best Actress for her incredible work on Anatomy of a Fall, over her second nominated performance in The Zone of Interest. Her director, Justine Triet, looked rather more comfortable in an outsized grey suit, a blue-green shirt, and fine, sensible boots.

As ever, in the spirit of inclusivity, various community groups are called upon to introduce nominated films. A street art collective gives their thoughts on the shortlisted feature documentaries, a board game society outlines the contenders for Best Animated Feature (which finally goes to the superb Robot Dreams).

Top of the list of Things You Don’t See at the Oscars: Hungarian master Béla Tarr swearing; Isabel Coixet notes the physical awards resemblance to a sex toy and wonders aloud if the Academy can “put batteries in it?”; Stellan Skarsgård is endlessly delayed on the red carpet by autograph hunters with Dune merchandise.

There comes a moment when zany Ritta realises that Ermita Frigato, recipient of the Best Production Design for her work on La Chimera, can’t understand English-language questions. She tries Spanish – no go – before calling into the audience for someone – anyone – to translate. A heroic casting agent comes to the rescue.

One EFA innovation, which requires that the nominees all sit together on a large couch as the category winner is announced, lends the appearance of a game show.

The production aims for brisk pacing. There’s no sobbing over the rising orchestra allowed. Pablo Berger, accepting his award for Robot Dreams, urges his producer towards the stage: “Run, Sandra, run; we’ve only got one minute.”

Little things like Leila Costa’s wildly enthusiastic appraisal of Isabel Coixet (who accepts the Achievement in World Cinema award) and Sandra Hüller’s moment of silence in which to “imagine peace” ensure that the ceremony overruns by almost 30 minutes.

There are some lovely scenes; Joely Richardson presents her mum, Vanessa Redgrave, with an honorary award; rising star and presenter Mia McKenna-Bruce whoops when she opens the envelope and calls out the name Molly Manning Walker, her How To Have Sex director and the recipient of the European Discovery Prix FIPRESCI.

Walker takes to the stage for a second time when 99 teenagers from 30 countries name Scrapper, on which she served as cinematographer, as the European Young Audience Award.

Actors talking about their directors, a European Film Awards tradition, yields many delights: “Thank you for being brave enough to tell this story; my story,” says exiled Syrian actor, Jalal Altawil of Green Border director Holland.

In recent years, the EFAs have hosted several clean sweep champions:

Quo Vadis, Aida? won four EFAs, including Best Film, in 2021; last year, Reuben Ostlund took home six prizes – notably film, director, actor, screenplay – with Triangle of Sadness.

This year promised a closer race with major festival triumphs going toe-to-toe. Three big hitters from Cannes: Palme d’Or winner Anatomy Of A Fall – Grand Prix and FIPRESCI winner The Zone of Interest, and Jury Prize recipient Fallen Leaves were shortlisted for Best Film and Best Director alongside Green Border and Me Captain, respective winners of Special Jury Prize and Best Actor at Venice.

Ultimately, it was another landslide. Justine Triet’s early win for Best Screenplay telegraphed an emphatic victory for Anatomy of a Fall. (Arthur Harari, Triet’s “life partner” and co-writer appeared onscreen behind her as she took to the stage for their screenplay win; he stayed home to mind their two daughters.)

Anatomy of a Fall later took home gongs for Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Film.

After 36 years, the EFAs are waving goodbye to the Christmas markets. This will be the last December ceremony in Berlin, the city that has hosted the European Film Awards every second year since its inception. Next year, the awards will take place in the Swiss city of Lucerne. And the 38th edition will move to mid-January in 2026 as part of the broader “awards season”.

As Holland and others have noted, box office receipts in Europe suggest that continental audiences don’t want escapism; if anything, they want more politics and more discourse. Holland’s Green Border, despite being dismissed by various Polish authorities, has already scared up more than $4 million (€3.7 million) in its home country, while Anatomy of a Fall has, thus far, sold $18.3 million in tickets, mostly in Europe.

Will Hollywood and competition from the Oscars ruin the European Film Academy? Let’s hope not.

2023 European Film Awards Nominees and Winners (winners in bold)

European Film

Anatomy Of A Fall (France) Dir. Justine Triet

Fallen Leaves (Finland, Germany) Dir. Aki KaurismäkiGreen Border (Poland, France, Czech Republic, Belgium) Dir. Agnieszka Holland

Io Capitano (Italy, Belgium) Dir. Matteo Garrone

The Zone Of Interest (United Kingdom, Poland, USA) Dir. Jonathan Glazer

European Director

Justine Triet for Anatomy Of A Fall

Aki Kaurismäki for Fallen Leaves

Agnieszka Holland for Green Border

Matteo Garrone for Me Captain

Jonathan Glazer for The Zone Of Interest

European Screenwriter

Justine Triet & Arthur Harari for Anatomy Of A Fall

Aki Kaurismäki for Fallen Leaves

Maciej Pisuk, Gabriela Łazarkiewicz-Sieczko & Agnieszka Holland for Green Border

İlker Çatak & Johannes Duncker for The Teachers’ Lounge

Jonathan Glazer for The Zone Of Interest

European Actress

Sandra Hüller in Anatomy Of A Fall

Eka Chavleishvili in Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry

Alma Pöysti in Fallen Leaves

Mia McKenna-Bruce in How To Have Sex

Leonie Benesch In The Teachers’ Lounge

Sandra Hüller in The Zone Of Interest

European Actor

Thomas Schubert in Afire

Jussi Vatanen in Fallen Leaves

Josh O’Connor in La Chimera

Mads Mikkelsen in The Promised Land

Christian Friedel in The Zone Of Interest

Best Documentary

Apolonia, Apolonia (Denmark, Poland) Dir. Lea Glob

Four Daughters Dir. by Kaouther Ben Hania (France, Tunisia, Germany, Saudi Arabia)

Motherland (Sweden, Ukraine, Norway) Dir. Hanna Badziaka & Alexander Mihalkovich (Sweden, Ukraine, Norway)

On The Adamant (France, Japan) Dir. Nicolas Philibert (France, Japan)

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Estonia, France, Iceland) Dir. Anna Hints

European Discovery – Prix FIPRESCI

20,000 Species Of Bees (Spain) Dir. Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren (Spain)

How To Have Sex (UK, Greece) Dir. Molly Manning Walker

La Palisiada (Ukraine) Dir. directed by Philip Sotnychenko (Ukraine)

Safe Place (Croatia, Slovenia) Dir. Juraj Lerotić

The Quiet Migration (Denmark) Dir. Malene Choi

Young Audience Award

Scrapper (UK) Dir. Charlotte Regan

Longing For The World Dir. Jenna Hasse

One In A Million Dir. Joya Thome

European Animated Feature Film

A Greyhound Of A Girl (Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, United Kingdom, Latvia, Estonia, Germany) Dir. Enzo d’Alò

Chicken For Linda! Dir. Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach (France, Italy)

Robot Dreams (Spain, France) Dir. Pablo Berger

The Amazing Maurice (Germany, UK) Dir. Toby Genkel

White Plastic Sky (Hungary, Slovakia) Dir. Tibor Bánóczkia and Sarolta Szabó

European Cinematography

Rasmus Videbæk for The Promised Land

European Editing

Laurent Sénéchal for Anatomy Of A Fall

European Production Design

Emita Frigato for La Chimera

European Costume Design

Kicki Ilander for The Promised Land

European Make-up & Hair

Ana López-Puigcerver, Belén López-Puigcerver, David Martí & Montse Ribé for Society Of The Snow

European Original Score:

Markus Binder for Club Zero

European Sound

Johnnie Burn & Tarn Willers for The Zone Of Interest

European Visual Effects

Félix Bergés, Laura Pedro for Society of The Snow

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic