Berlin: Hungarian Love Story 'On Body and Soul' Wins Golden Bear Award

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival
'On Body and Soul'

The eccentric dramedy, set in a Hungarian slaughterhouse, beat out favorite 'The Other Side of Hope,' which earned best director honors for Aki Kaurismaki.

On Body and Soul, a romantic dramedy from Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi, was the surprise winner of the Golden Bear for best film at this year's Berlin International Film Festival. 

An idiosyncratic love story about two lonely slaughterhouse employees who go to absurd lengths in their pursuit of one another, On Body and Soul also picked up a trio of awards from Berlin's independent juries, including best film honors from FIPRESCI, the association of international film critics.

For Enyedi, the awards attention is the fulfillment of the promise shown with her debut, My Twentieth Century, which won Cannes' Camera d'Or prize for best first feature back in 1989.

Veteran Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, whom many had tipped for the top prize in Berlin this year, took home the Silver Bear for best director for The Other Side of Hope, a heartwarming tale of a Syrian refugee who travels to Finland to seek asylum. A nonplussed Kaurismaki didn't even make it to the stage, but accepted his trophy from his seat.

Agnieszka Holland's Polish murder mystery Spoor, another supposed Golden Bear frontrunner, had to make do with the Alfred Bauer Prize, named after the founder of the Berlin Film Festival, which honors the best European title in competition.

Alain Gomis' Felicite, a raw and realistic portrait of a singer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, won the jury prize.

The fest's international jury, headed by Elle director Paul Verhoeven, also surprised the crowd Saturday night at the Berlinale Palast with its picks for best actor and actress. While newcomer Daniela Vega, the transgender star of Sebastian Lelio's Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman, looked to be a shoo-in for the best actress Silver Bear, the prize instead went to Kim Min-hee for her role as a talented actress taking a break from her screen career to pursue an affair with an older, married filmmaker in On the Beach at Night Alone from South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo.

Similarly, critically acclaimed performances by the likes of Steve Coogan (in Oren Moverman's The Dinner), Mircea Postelnicu (in Calin Peter Netzer's Ana, mon Amour) and Sherwan Haji (as the refugee in Kaurismaki's The Other Side of Hope) were snubbed by the jury, with the Silver Bear for best actor going to Germany's Georg Friedrich for Bright Nights, in which he plays an emotionally closed-off father taking his sullen teenage son on a road trip to Norway.

A Fantastic Woman picked up the Silver Bear for best screenplay, with the film's writers Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza dedicating the prize to the "courageous, wonderful and fantastic Daniela Vega," and the Silver Bear for extraordinary artistic achievement went to editor Dana Bunescu for the elegant out-of-sequence work on Ana, Mon Amour.

The inaugural Glashutte Original Documentary Award was given to Palestinian director Raed Andoni's Ghost Hunting, which recreates a notorious Israeli interrogation center to examine the rarely documented trauma experienced by former Palestinian prisoners.

Presenting the documentary honor, Oscar-winning nonfiction filmmaker Laura Poitras used the opportunity to take a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump.

"The President of the United States yesterday called the press the enemy of the people," she said. "We documentarians are here to say we are the enemies of nationalism and exclusion."

The best first feature award went to Carla Simon’s Summer 1993, while Cidade Pequena from helmer Diogo Costa Amarante won the Golden Bear for best short film.