'The Square' Wins Big at 2017 European Film Awards

The Square Still_3_embed - Publicity - EMBED 2017
Courtesy of Magnolia

Notary (shirtless) as an ape man torments West and other guests at a formal dinner party. “Aside from the leads, every person in that scene is a [VIP] from Stockholm,” says producer Erik Hemmendor. “Ordinary extras wouldn’t be enough — we had to have people who knew how to sit and dress, who would have the right reaction when [Notary] comes in and starts going wild.” Adds West, “The woman to my left was one of Sweden’s leading gallerists. On my right are billionaires.”

Ruben Ostlund's Swedish satire swept the night, winning honors for best film, director, screenplay and actor.

Ruben Ostlund's The Square, a satire of the art world starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West, was the big winner of this year's European Film Awards, taking home honors for best film, director, comedy, screenplay and actor for Bang on Saturday.

The Swedish director thanked the European Film Academy for acknowledging a feature that, while dealing with serious issues, still strives to be entertaining.

"We wanted to say something important, but we also wanted it to be entertaining and exciting — I think it's part of a European approach," said Ostlund, citing Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, last year's big winner at the EFAs, as the kind of "fun approach" he was going for.

Picking up his first award of the night, for best screenplay, Ostlund thanked his actors, particularly Bang, whom the helmer said contributed many improvised lines to the script.

The Square premiered in Cannes earlier this year, where it won the Palme d'Or for best film. Ostlund's dramedy is also a frontrunner for the foreign-language film Oscar, where it is representing Sweden.

On Body and Soul, an offbeat love story set in an abattoir from Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi, was considered a frontrunner at this year's EFAs, but it ultimately picked up only one of the top honors, with Alexandra Borbely earning the European Actress prize for her portrait of a socially awkward woman who somehow manages to find love. On Body and Soul premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Bear for best film. It is Hungary's submission for consideration in the foreign-language film Oscar race.

The EFA winners (and nominees) will be hoping the prizes give a boost to their Academy Award campaigns. On Body and Soul, The Square, Robin Campillo’s AIDS drama BPM (Beats per Minute) and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Russia drama Loveless are all in consideration for the best foreign language film Oscar. The Coproduction Office is handling worldwide sales of The Square, BPM is with Playtime, Yorgos Lanthimos' surreal thriller The Killing of a Sacred Deer is with HanWay, On Body and Soul is with Films Boutique and Aki Kaurismaki's refugee melodrama The Other Side of Hope is with The Match Factory.

All have already sold to the U.S., with Magnolia Pictures taking The Square, Sony Pictures Classics nabbing Loveless, The Orchard handling the U.S. release of BPM, Janus Films releasing The Other Side of Hope stateside and A24, which also co-produced Killing of a Sacred Deer, taking over domestic distribution duties. Netflix picked up North American rights to On Body and Soul and will release the film Feb. 21.

Communion, from Polish director Anna Zamecka, nabbed the EFA for best non-fiction feature. The prize for best European animation feature film went to Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman for Loving Vincent, a painstakingly hand-painted biopic on the life and work of Vincent van Gogh.

"Vincent Van Gogh was European, and because he was allowed to move freely, he became the artist that he was. We should keep borders open," said Welchman in his acceptance speech.

Politics, always a major feature at the EFAs, were never far away at this year's ceremony. The European Film Academy used the occasion to again call for the release of Ukraine filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is being held in a Russian prison on what many believe are trumped-up terrorism charges. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who lives in Berlin, has added his voice to the petition.

European Film Academy president Wim Wenders made a passionate speech calling for Europe to turn away from the politics of nationalism, which has been on the rise across the continent.

"How is it possible that nationalism is getting back in our lives — why is it killing our proudest dreams?" the German director asked the audience. "Maybe we didn't care enough, maybe we allowed it and watched for too long." He ended his speech with a rallying call for European filmmakers to defend the principles of a diverse, liberal and free Europe.

"Europe is not the problem, Europe is the solution," Wenders said. "Let's defend it, let's respond. Long live our European diversity, long live our rich cinema!"

Loveless picked up two EFA technical awards, which were announced earlier. Michail Krichman won the best European cinematographer honor, and Evgueni and Sacha Galperine took the prize for European composer of the year. The drama follows a tense search for a missing child that reveals the pathologies at the heart of Russian society.

Josefin Asberg earned best European production design honors for her work on The Square, while Campillo received best editing honors for BPM. Among other technical awards, best European costume designer honors went to Katarzyna Lewinska for Spoor, helmed by Agnieszka Holland and Katarzyna Adamik; best European hair and makeup artist honors went to Leendert van Nimwegen for Martin Koolhoven's neo-Western Brimstone; and best European sound designer of the year honors went to Oriol Tarrago for J.A. Bayona's A Monster Calls.

Julie Delpy received the European Achievement in World Cinema honor. Ethan Hawke, who, with Delpy, co-wrote and co-starred in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise trilogy, sent a video message to the ceremony in Berlin to congratulate the French multihyphenate.

"When I first met you, when you were 22 or 23, you were the most striking young person I ever met," he said, "and you have become the more completely actualized version of yourself. You have achieved everything you have dreamed of. ... It's been an absolute pleasure to work with you as an actor and a screenwriter and to watch your development as a filmmaker."

Delpy turned her speech into a fund-raising drive. The actress/director, who this week revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that a key financier of her new film, My Zoe, suddenly pulled out shortly before it was set to go to prep, told the EFA audience she still needed $600,000 "before December 15" if the project was to begin shooting as planned early next year. 

Pulling up a bundle of tickets, Delpy said she would be raffling off a chance to have breakfast with her the next day in Berlin. And, in addition, she would be selling off walk-on roles in My Zoe for anyone interested.

"People think I'm joking, but I'm not," Delpy said. "I will do anything to make my film!"

The European Discovery prize, given to a first-time filmmaker, went to British director William Oldroyd for Lady Macbeth, while legendary Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov (Faust, Russian Ark) received the EFA Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding work in the field of directing, dramaturgy and cinematography.

The 30th European Film Awards were held at Berlin's Haus der Berliner Festspiele. The winners were picked by the more than 3,000 members of the European Film Academy, made up of film professionals from across Europe.

A full list of winners follows.

The Square, dir. Ruben Ostlund

The Square, dir. Ruben Ostlund

Ruben Ostlund for The Square

Alexandra Borbely for On Body and Soul

Claes Bang for The Square

Ruben Ostlund for The Square

Communion, Anna Zamecka

Lady Macbeth, William Oldroyd

Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman

Robin Campillo for BPM (Beats per Minute)

Josefin Asberg for The Square

Sacha Galperine for Loveless

Michail Krichman for Loveless

Katarzyna Lewinska for Spoor

Leendert van Nimwegen for Brimstone

Oriol Tarrago for A Monster Calls

Timecode, Juanjo Gimenez

Julie Delpy

Aleksandr Sokurov

Cedomir Kolar

Stefan Zweig — Farewell to Europe, dir. Maria Schrader