A scathing social satire about sex, lies and videotape, the movie was shot entirely during COVID lockdown last summer, with cast and crew all wearing antiviral masks.
The movie, which divided critics, is another typically left-field decision from Berlin, whose juries often pick experimental or controversial films for their top honor.
The runner-up Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, a female-driven ensemble drama from Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi.
The Berlin Silver Bear for best director went to Dénes Nagy for Natural Light, his feature debut, which follows Hungarian soldiers in World War II as they patrol the icy forests of Ukraine, on the hunt for Soviet partisans.
A special jury award went to German documentarian Maria Speth for Herr Bachmann and His Class, a fly-on-the-wall documentary that follows a German teacher in his final year with a class of mainly immigrant and ethnic minority children.
For the first time this year, Berlin did not gender its acting honors, handing out just one Silver Bear for best leading performance, which went to Maren Eggert for her starring role in Maria Schrader’s sci-fi screwball comedy I’m Your Man. The best supporting performance honor was awarded to Lilla Kizlinger for Forest — I See You Everywhere, the latest from Hungarian auteur Bence Fliegauf (Womb), which is a series of seven successive domestic disputes, played out by a mixture of professional and nonprofessional actors.
Hong Sang-soo’s Introduction, another minimalist drama from the prolific South Korean filmmaker, this time in black-and-white, won Berlin’s Silver Bear for best screenplay, adding to Hong’s collection (he won best director in Berlin last year for The Woman Who Ran).
The Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution went to Yibran Asuad for the editing concept to A Cop Movie, from Mexican helmer Alonso Ruizpalacios, which tears down the fourth wall and mixes documentary and fiction to explore the life of police officers in Mexico City.
In the Encounters section, meant to highlight films that aim to “foster aesthetically and structurally daring works from independent, innovative filmmakers,” the top prize for best film went to We from Alice Diop. Taste from Lê Bao took the special jury award and the best director honor went to two films: The Girl and the Spider from Ramon and Silvan Zürcher, and to Canadian director Denis Cote for Special Hygiene.
The winners were announced by the Berlinale jury Friday. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Berlin Festival has been split into two events. An online-only festival, with the accompanying European Film Market, was held this week, primarily for the international industry. A second, public, festival is planned in Berlin from June 9 to 20.
In this very unusual year, all six members of the international jury voting on Berlin’s Gold and Silver Bear honors are former Golden Bear winners. Four of the six — Romanian filmmaker Adina Pintilie (Touch Me Not), Italian director Gianfranco Rosi (Notturno), Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and Hungary’s Ildikó Enyedi (On Body and Soul) — watched the 2021 Berlinale competition in person, socially distanced and wearing masks, at a theater in Berlin.
Nadav Lapid (Synonyms) was unable to attend and watched the films from his home in Israel. Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, winner of last year’s Berlinale Golden Bear for There Is No Evil, is still under house arrest and unable to leave the country. He took part via a private screening room in his home in Tehran.
This year’s winners, as well as numerous selections from across the 2021 Berlinale program, will be screened for the Berlin public at the June Summer Special event. If the pandemic conditions allow it, the festival plans to hold red carpet galas and other events in the presence of the filmmakers.
Here is the full list of 2021 Berlinale winners.
Golden Bear for Best Film
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
Silver Bear for Best Director
Denes Nagy for Natural Light
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
Silver Bear Jury Prize
Maria Speth for Herr Bachmann and his Class
Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance
Maren Eggert for I’m Your Man
Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance
Lilla Kizlinger for Forest —I See You Everywhere,
Silver Bear for Best Screenplay
Hong Sang-soo for Introduction
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution
Yibran Asuad for the editing concept to A Cop Movie
Special Jury Award
Ramon and Silvan Zürcher for The Girl and the Spider, and Denis Cote for Special Hygiene
Rock Bottom Riser