The Cannes film festival has awarded its top honour to the film many tipped as winner before it even started. The rest of the jury's picks, however, were less predictable
My kingdom may be small but at least I'm the king," boasts the
despised landlord at the heart of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Turkish drama Winter Sleep. In crowning the film with the all-important Palme d'Or award, the Cannes film festival laid on a coronation which suggested that the kingdom may be growing.
is a great surprise for me," said the 55-year-old Ceylan, who has been a
favourite of the Cannes selectors since his acclaimed drama Uzak took
the 2002 jury prize. "This year is the 100th year of Turkish cinema and
that is a good coincidence, I think."
Winter Sleep is the first
Turkish film to win the Palme since Yilmaz Guney's political saga Yol,
back in 1982. On accepting the award, Ceylan dedicated his prize to the "young people" caught up in his nation's ongoing political unrest and to the more than 300 workers who were killed in the recent Soma mining disaster.
Sleep stars the onetime EastEnders star Haluk Bilginer as Aydin, a
wealthy retired actor who dreams of playing God in a remote community in
rural Anatolia. Ceylan's tale is a brooding, knotty psychological
drama, doffing its cap to the plays of Anton Chekhov and running nearly
three-and-a-half hours in length as Aydin stumbles, by degrees, towards a
self-knowledge. The director
had been the bookies' favourite coming in to the festival and yet
Winter Sleep appeared to split the critics when it screened early in the
festival. Where many hailed the film as a revelation, others regarded
it as an endurance test.
Happily for Ceylan, the judges were on
his side. "I could have happily stayed there for another couple of
hours," insisted jury president Jane Campion. She added: "If I had the
guts to be as honest about his characters as this director is, I'd be
very proud of myself."
"We all felt it was an incredible spiritual
film with terrific performances," added director Nicolas Winding Refn,
who served on the jury. "I cried at the end. I was taken into another
In building to their Palme d'Or announcement, the jury threw
consolation prizes to a number of other contenders. Julianne Moore was
named best actress for her performance as a demented Hollywood diva in
David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, while Britain's Timothy Spall won
the best actor prize for his grunting, growling masterclass as marine
painter JMW Turner in Mike Leigh's period drama Mr Turner.
Spall, 57, the victory had involved a last-minute dash in order to
reach the ceremony on time. "About four hours ago I was in north Holland with my arm up a pipe full of grease on my boat," he explained ruefully. "I have had a wash since then."
Spall had previously acted in Leigh's bittersweet drama Secrets and Lies,
which won the Palme d'Or back in 1996. At the time he had been unable
to attend the closing night ceremony, because he was undergoing treatment for leukemia. The actor went on to thank his director, cast and crew. "Most of all I thank God that I'm still here and alive," he said.
Elsewhere, Italian director Alice Rohrwacher took the runner-up Grand Prix
award for her warm-hearted rites-of-passage drama The Wonders. The
American film-maker Bennett Miller was named best director for his
pungent, fact-based thriller Foxcatcher, which casts Steve Carrell as a
twitchy, insecure billionaire who buys himself a wrestling team.
Russia's Andrei Zvyaginstev picked up the screenplay prize for his epic
tragedy Leviathan - a picture some observers had tipped as a Palme d'Or winner.
In a rare move, Cannes judges decided to split the jury prize between Mommy, a boisterous Oedipal comedy from Canada's 25-year-old Xavier Dolan, and the abstract, oblique Goodbye to Language from the 83-year-old provocateur Jean-Luc Godard.
the podium, a tearful Dolan paid tribute to Campion. The jury president
remains the festival's only female Palme d'Or winner, taking the prize for The
Piano in 1993. "The Piano was the first film that I watched that truly
defined who I am," Dolan told her. "It made me want to write films for
beautiful women with soul and will and strength. To even stand on the
same stage as you is extraordinary."
At the end of a festival that
was widely judged to be solid rather than spectacular, the Cannes
organisers brought the curtain down with gusto, if not always with
efficiency. Quentin Tarantino danced with Uma Thurman
on the red carpet outside the Palais, while the live feed of the
ceremony failed in the neighbouring Debussy cinema, sparking mass uproar
among the gathered delegates. The 67th Cannes film festival bowed out
to a deafening blend of cheers and hoots, applause and whistles, delight
and fury. Fans of the event would not want it any other way.