Best Actress Kirsten Dunst Thanks Cannes for Allowing Lars von Trier's 'Melancholia' 'To Still Be in Competition' (Cannes 2011)

Kirsten Dunst Cannes 2011
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Kirsten Dunst Cannes

Jury member Olivier Assayas says "it's a great work" that deserved to be honored

"Wow, what a week it's been," Kirsten Dunst exclaimed as she accepted the award for best actress at the 64th Cannes Film Festival Sunday for her performance as a depressed woman whose wedding must compete with the end of the world in Lars von Trier's Melancholia.

And that was certainly the understatement of the evening.

Ever since the movie screened Wednesday morning, it's been overshadowed by the controversy that erupted when von Trier jokingly boasted of being a Nazi at the official press conference that followed.

Sitting beside him, Dunst looked on uncomfortably as the Danish director dug himself into a hole by responding to a question about German influences on his work by saying that he understood and sympathized with Hitler.

Although the director later withdrew his comments, the festival took the highly unusual step of declaring him a "persona non grata" and he was not on hand for the closing festivities.

In her acceptance, Dunst expressed her gratitude that the jury saw past the uproar to recognize her work in the film, which will be distributed stateside by Magnolia later this year.

"This is an honor that's once in a lifetime. Thank you to the Cannes Film Festival for allowing the film to still be in competition," she said before also acknowledge von Trier by adding, "I want to thank Lars for giving me the opportunity to be so brave in this film. It¹s such a special night for me."

After the awards ceremony, French director Olivier Assayas, a member of the jury, said of the decision to single out von Trier¹s film for an award, "It is one of his best films. We all agreed about the condemnation of his comments made during his press conference. But the film is very well acted, very well written. It¹s a great work."

-- Rebecca Leffler in Cannes contributed to this report