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Lars Von Trier's 'Melancholia' Wins Best Film at European Film Awards

Melancholia Still
Magnolia Pictures
"Melancholia"

"The Artist" and "The King's Speech" also among the winners.

BERLIN -- Lars von Trier's apocalyptic drama Melancholia blew them away at the 24th European Film Awards, Europe's version of the Oscars, taking home three trophies, including best film.

"I don't have a message from Lars for you because he has stopped making public statements. I can't imagine why," said one of Melancholia's producers as she accepted the honor on von Trier's behalf, making reference to the director's infamous pro-Hitler quips in Cannes this year.

Melancholia's cameraman Manuel Alberto Claro got the best cinematography nod for his hypnotic lensing of earth's final days and production designer Jette Lehmann won the EFA for her opulent sets.

Melancholia was the odds-on favorite to take the top prize at this year's EFA's. The host of the 24th European Film Awards, German comedienne Anke Engelke, acknowledged the film's frontrunner status when she started the show, making her entrance on stage in a wedding dress walking in slow-mo, aping Dunst's character in the von Trier drama.

But Von Trier was beat out in the best director race by fellow Dane Susanne Bier for her Foreign Language Oscar winner In a Better World. And the European Film Academy preferred Tilda Swinton's gripping performance as the mother of a murderer in We Need to Talk About Kevin to Kirsten Dunst's depressed bride in Melancholia, giving Swinton the best actress nod. Colin Firth added an EFA best actor trophy to his Oscar with what will likely be his last honor for The King's Speech. Neither Firth nor Swinton made it to the EFA ceremony, which was somewhat low-wattage in terms of star power.

The King's Speech's award haul also included the best editing honor for Tariq Anwar and the People's Choice Award voted on by European cinema goers.

Oscar favorite The Artist won one EFA for best composer nod for Ludovic Bource's classic score. Bource singled out the film's canine star for "inspiring all the music" in Michel Hazanavicius' film.

Another strong Oscar contender, the 3D dance film Pina from Wim Wenders won best European documentary.

Belgium brothers Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne took the best screenplay honor for their script to The Kid with a Bike. Belgium's other big win of the night was for Oxygen, from first-timer Hans Van Nuffel, won the European Discovery prize for best debut feature.

In one of the biggest surprises of the evening, French acting legend Michel Piccoli, who was nominated in the best actor category for playing the Pope in Habemus Papam, was hauled on stage to recieve a lifetime achievement award from actor Bruno Ganz and director Volker Schlondorff.

But the biggest laughs of the evening came thanks to Stellan Skarsgard and his tribute to Mads Mikkelsen, winner of the award for achievement in European cinema. Skarsgard turned the speech about his old friend into a mini-roast.

"I don't admire you for your looks, because you're not good looking," Skarsgard riffed. "You have an 'interesting' face. I know you've been voted sexiest man in Denmark like 6 times but those are by people who don't know you. And we have to remember, Denmark is a very small place."

But Skarsgard ended on a sweet note. "Mads, everything you do has a clarity to it. There's nothing fuzzy about what you do. You're acting is clean, graceful and very poetic."

The biggest applause of the night was for veteran British director Stephen Frears, who received a lifetime achivement honor.

"Actually, I'm everything you don't," Frears said to the audience of European film professionals. "I'm not an auteur and I make cheerful films because I can't stand the misery anymore. I'm just a bloke who makes films and hopes the audience likes them. And I'll try to do better next time."

Full list of European Film Award winners:

EUROPEAN FILM 2011

Melancholia Dir. Lars von Trier

EUROPEAN DIRECTOR 2011

Susanne Bier for In a Better World

EUROPEAN ACTRESS 2011

Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin

EUROPEAN ACTOR 2011

Colin Firth in The King's Speech

EUROPEAN SCREENWRITER 2011

Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne for The Kid with a Bike

CARLO DI PALMA EUROPEAN CINEMATOGRAPHER AWARD 2011

Manuel Alberto Claro for Melancholia

EUROPEAN DOCUMENTARY 2011

Pina Dir. Wim Wenders

EUROPEAN ACHIEVEMENT IN WORLD CINEMA 2011

Mads Mikkelson

EFA LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Stephen Frears

EUROPEAN CO-PRODUCTION AWARD - PRIX EURIMAGES

Mariela Besuievsky

EUROPEAN ANIMATED FEATURE FILM 2011

Chico & Rita  Dir. Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba

EUROPEAN EDITOR 2011

Tariq Anwar for The King's Speech

EUROPEAN PRODUCTION DESIGN

Jette Lehmann for Melancholia

EUROPEAN COMPOSER

Ludovic Bource for The Artist

EUROPEAN DISCOVERY - PRIX FIPRESCI

Oxygen (Belgium/Netherlands) Dir. Hans Van Nuffel

PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD

The King's Speech

EFA SHORT FILM AWARD

The Wholly Family