Triangle of Sadness takes four top prizes at European film awards

It was plain sailing at this year’s European film awards in Reykjavík for Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Ostlund’s luxury yacht-set satire of western entitlement and self-regard, which won best film as well as three other major prizes.

The Swedish director, fast becoming an EFAs favourite, also took best director and best screenwriter to add to his six European awards for his 2017 art-world roast The Square. Veteran Croatian actor Zlatko Burić scooped best actor for his role as a Russian fertiliser magnate who becomes an unlikely revolutionary aboard Ostlund’s puke-swilling ship of fools.

Zlatko Burić with his award. Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Ostlund surely would have appreciated the fact that the 35th awards, the first physical edition for three years after the Covid pandemic, took place at Reykjavik’s Harpa Concert Hall, an upscale glass bastion on the Icelandic capital’s harbour with more than a whiff of globalised privilege.

Nevertheless, after the last few subdued ceremonies, this year’s European film awards renewed their reputation for direct political engagement; its traditional USP compared to the more superficial Oscars.

In the European co-production award, it showed its support for Ukrainian film-makers during the current conflict by recognising not one production, but the country’s entire industry. Accepting the prize, producer Darya Bassel referred to Dziga Vertov’s 1929 experimental Man with a Movie Camera, which though regarded as a Soviet classic was filmed partly in Kiev, Kharkiv and Odessa: Kiev and Odessa: “Its identity was stolen,” she claimed. “Just like the identity of our culture is under threat today.”

The European Film Academy doubled up on solidarity for Ukraine by giving best documentary to Mariupol 2, whose Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius was allegedly killed by Russian forces in April. His daughter received a standing ovation as she told guests: “He lost his life in the kind of selflessness most of us can’t hope to achieve, delivering medicine to people.”

Teja Kvedaravičius with her father’s award.
Teja Kvedaravičius with her father’s award. Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

With Ukrainian cinema infrastructure now largely destroyed, Matthijs Wouter Knol, CEO and director of the European Film Academy, spoke of the need not just to rebuild for the country’s film-makers, but to build capacity to support European film-makers caught in any kind of conflict zone.

A new award for sustainability went to the European Commission’s European Green Deal initiative, which aims to reduce emissions on the continent by 55% by 2030; through the funding arm Creative Europe, it hopes to achieve a portion of those from the film and TV industries.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recognised that, beyond tackling their carbon footprint, film and television had a leading role to play in mobilising the masses in the climate crisis. “They can make people embrace a cause, and that’s what we need right now. You have the power to change hearts and minds,” Von der Leyen told the assembled crowd.

But one of the award’s three presenters, a young Icelander called Vilhjálmur, warned that symbolic gestures were insufficient and that cinema had to make its commitment concrete. “It’s not good enough,” he pointed out. “Next year, we want it to go to a specific production.” All the youth-voted prizes had a radical urgency, with Jerzy Skolimowski’s psychedelic donkey odyssey EO taking the European university film award and Cyril Dion’s anti-speciesist inquest Animal the young audience award.

Away from Triangle of Sadness’ clean sweep, Vicky Krieps took best actress for her role as constrained 19th-century Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Marie Kreutzer’s Corsage. Meanwhile, New German Cinema luminary Margarethe von Trotta became the third woman in the awards’ 34-year history to win the lifetime achievement award, and Elia Suleiman offered a rambling homily about his career after bagging the world cinema achievement gong. European Film Academy chairman Mike Downey was on hand to state his qualities more precisely: “You ridicule statehood and ideologies, but you’re so tender with people.”

Vicky Krieps is seen on a display via an online video transmission after winning best actress.
Vicky Krieps is seen on a display via an online video transmission after winning best actress. Photograph: Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images

Though Triangle of Sadness is technically a UK co-production, British cinema had a threadbare night. It only secured a brace of technical awards – production and costume design – for Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical memoir Belfast, with Paul Mescal missing out on best actor for his performance in 90s drama Aftersun.

The socio-political seriousness was offset by concentrated doses of Icelandic quirk from its presenters, artist Hugleikur Dagsson and actor Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir, who cocking a snock at the uptight Oscars encouraged winners to go as long as possible in their speeches: “If you thank God, you also have to thank the devil.” With several presenters struggling to prise open the winning envelopes, the Icelandic glue industry also received an unexpected boost.

Full list of awards

Best film Triangle of Sadness

Best comedy The Good Boss

European Discovery (Fipresci prize) Small Body

Best documentary Mariupolis 2

Best animated feature No Dogs or Italians Allowed

Best short film Granny’s Sexual Life

Best director Ruben Ostlund, Triangle of Sadness

Best actress Vicky Krieps, Corsage

Best actor Zlatko Burić, Triangle of Sadness

Best screenwriter Ruben Ostlund, Triangle of Sadness

Best cinematography The Quiet Girl

Best editing Burning Days

Best production design Belfast

Best costume design Belfast

Best hair & makeup All Quiet on the Western Front

Best original score EO

Best sound The Hole

Best visual effects All Quiet on the Western Front

EFA lifetime achievement award Margarethe von Trotta

European achievement in world cinema Elia Suleiman

European innovative storytelling Marco Bellocchio

European co-production award (Prix Eurimages) Ukraine

European university film award EO

Young audience award Animal

Sustainability award European Green Deal

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