The 73rd Berlinale: A Look at the Main Prize Winners
The Berlin International Film Festival 2023 Award Ceremony took place on 25th February. Actress Kristen Stewart served as president of a seven-person international jury. The prize ceremony has often had some unusual choices for winners and this year was no exception.
The Golden Bear for Best Film went to On the Adamant, directed by Nicolas Philibert. As always, it is the film‘s producers (here, Céline Loiseau, Gilles Sacuto and Miléna Poylo) who are credited for the prize. The documentary focuses on a day care center on the River Seine in Paris. During the course of the film we get to know the bond between the care workers and patients
Christian Petzold has always been a popular director at the Berlinale. This year he won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize for Red Sky (Afire). Four young people are staying in a holiday home on the Baltic Coast. One of them is a writer, struggling to finish his latest book. Meanwhile there are warnings of a heat wave and potential forest fire nearby. Petzold is successful here in making character interactions become a study in existential psychology. Also notable is the building of tension in what is otherwise a slow-paced but compelling film.
The Silver Bear Jury Prize was awarded to the Portuguese film Bad Living, directed by João Canijo. It concerns five women who have run an old hotel with ongoing conflicts. When a younger person arrives, old wounds are reopened.
Philippe Garrel, the French director (and sometime actor), is popular at the Berlinale and beyond, with films also regularly featuring in competition at Cannes and Venice. This year The Plough won him the Silver Bear for Best Director. The film concerns a traveling family puppet theater. After the father and grandmother die, the remaining family struggles to keep the legacy alive. It deserved the award for depicting the passion and realities of a puppet theater in the modern age.
Other main awards benefitted from the renowned Berlin accolades for fringe or special interest topics. Sofía Otero was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance in 20,000 Species of Bees. Directed by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, a distraught child and her mother experience life changing experiences in a summer house. At just eight-years-old, Otero has made history as the youngest Berlinale winner.
Thea Ehre won the Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance in Till the End of the Night by Christoph Hochhäusler. In the crime thriller, Ehre plays a Trans character just out of prison on probation. Meanwhile, Angela Schanelec received the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay for Music, a perplexing film that will likely divide audiences. Concerning the Oedipus myth and containing little dialogue, its accolade therefore seems somewhat controversial.
Finally, the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution was awarded to Hélène Louvart for her cinematography in Giacomo Abbruzzese’s Disco Boy. A film not without some flaws, the prize for original cinematography was nonetheless well deserved.
By Steven Yates