Lars Von Trier 'Melancholia' Dominates European Film Awards

by Andre Soares
Melancholia, Kirsten Dunst, Lars von Trier
Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia

Lars von Trier's Melancholia is the clear favorite at the 2011 European Film Awards. Nazi joke or no, Cannes Film Festival ban or no, the von Trier-directed apocalyptic drama received eight nominations in seven categories, among them Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay (also von Trier), and Best Actress (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg). Melancholia failed to be shortlisted only for Best Actor and Best Composer. [European Film Awards 2011 Nominations.]

Five films tied in second place, with four nominations apiece: Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre, Finland's submission for the 2012 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award; Susanne Bier's In a Better World, this year's Best Foreign Language Film winner; Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, this year's Best Picture Oscar winner; Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, which is already considered one of the top contenders for the 2012 Best Picture Oscar; and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's The Kid with a Bike, this year's Grand Jury Prize winner at Cannes.

Among the eligible films completely bypassed by the European Academy were the following:

  • Athina Rachel Tsangari's Attenberg
  • Álex de la Iglesia's Venice Film Festival Best Screenplay and Best Director winner The Last Circus
  • Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31st
  • Agustí Villaronga's Goya Award winner Black Bread
  • Guillaume Canet's Little White Lies
  • Icíar Bollaín's Even the Rain
  • Peter Mullan's Neds
  • Céline Sciamma's Tomboy

Additionally, Tom Tykwer's Three, Jerzy Skolimowski's Essential Killing, and Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Lived In failed to be shortlisted in the film, acting, and screenplay categories. Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin earned a single nod, for Best Actress contender Tilda Swinton, while Nanni Moretti's Habemus Papam managed only a nomination for Best Actor contender Michel Piccoli and another for production designer Paola Bizzarri.

Considering that loud, continuous buzz has more to do with movie awards season winners than something like, say, intrinsic quality, expect the buzz-y names to win this year. In other words, I'll very surprised to see The King's Speech's Colin Firth, last year's Best Actor favorite just about everywhere you looked, beating Cannes winner and potential Oscar nominee Jean Dujardin for The Artist. Or The King's Speech itself beating Melancholia for Best Film and thus ruining the chance for the European Film Academy to make another statement for artists' rights. I mean, really, The King's Speech is so 2010, much like 2009 Best European Film loser Slumdog Millionaire was so 2008.

Indeed, I should add that Oscar winner Tom Hooper wasn't even shortlisted among the Best Director nominees. Hooper and – more surprisingly – The Artist's Michel Hazanavicius were left out; veteran Béla Tarr (The Turin Horse) took their spot.

Now, if the European Film Academy wants their awards to be more internationally relevant, i.e., to truly influence the Academy Awards, it's about time they changed their eligibility requirements and deadlines. Although I believe the film world shouldn't revolve around the Oscars, I have no doubts that Oscar “buzz” would make the European Film Awards and their nominees much more widely talked about the world over. And that would be a good thing.

The 2011 European Film Award winners will be announced on Dec. 3 in Berlin.

Alexander Skarsgard, Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Alexander Skarsgård, Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia

A contender for Melancholia this year, Lars von Trier has won a previous European Film Award in the Best Director category: for Dogville in 2003, in addition to a nomination for Antichrist in 2009. (The Best European Director category was eliminated from 1990 to 2000.) Two von Trier movies have won Best Film: Breaking the Waves in 1996 and Dancer in the Dark. Melancholia will quite possibly be his second win for Best Director and third for Best Film.

Whereas the Hollywood Academy tends to shy away from controversial movies and filmmakers – unless US-based film critics and organizations hand them lots of awards – the European Film Academy members seem to go out of their way to embrace “black sheep” filmmakers and difficult themes: von Trier and Melancholia this year, Roman Polanski and The Ghost Writer last year, Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah in 2008, Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days in 2007, Michael Haneke's Hidden in 2005, Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her in 2002, von Trier's Dancer in the Dark in 2000 and Breaking the Waves in 1996, etc.

Thus, Lars von Trier's Cannes Film Festival controversy and ensuing French and Danish police investigations into his Nazi jokes all but guarantees more wins in 2011.

And in case you're wondering why New Jersey-born Kirsten Dunst is one of the European Actress 2011 contenders, that could be because Dunst became a German citizen a couple of months ago. Earlier this year, she was the Best Actress winner at the Cannes Film Festival; as a Hollywood celebrity, she has a good chance at an Academy Award nomination, too.

Had Dunst been just about any European actress – especially a non-English-speaking one – her Oscar chances would have been all but nil. But what about Lars von Trier? Will the Hollywood Academy's more daring Directors Branch come to his rescue?

Personally, I think it's unlikely. Not just because von Trier's were Nazi/anti-Israel jokes that probably irked many Jewish Academy members (and some non-Jewish ones as well), but chiefly because he's not one of the guys like, say, The Last Temptation of Christ's Academy Award nominee Martin Scorsese. Also, freedom of speech issues in France and Denmark might as well be taking place universes away from Beverly Hills, or, say, Universal City, where Fundamentalist Christians took to the streets in the late '80s to protest Scorsese's Universal-distributed film.

Melancholia picture: Magnolia Pictures

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