Romanian tale of abortion wins top Cannes prize
A disturbing tale of illegal abortion in communist-era Romania won the Cannes film festival’s top prize on Sunday as director Cristian Mungiu beat 21 contenders to take the much-coveted Palme d’Or for his film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
The low-budget film tells the story of Gabita, a student who has a risky back-alley abortion, and the horrific consequences she and her friend Otilia suffer as a result in Ceausescu’s Romania. The critics praised the film’s realism and the humility shown in Otilia’s sacrifice for her friend.
Mungiu, addressing a crowded Grand Théatre LumiÃ¨re on Sunday night, said: “This kind of attention that we got here, all around the festival, this story in which we believe so much, is going to reach lots of people now.
“I also hope that this award that I am getting tonight is going to be good news for small filmmakers from small countries, because it looks like you don’t necessarily need a big budget and a lot of stars.”
The Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk, who was on the Cannes jury, said: “This was a great film. It was a pleasure to watch every second of it.”
There was also some good news for the British film industry when Control, a film about the life of Ian Curtis, from the rock group Joy Division, was given a special mention. The film, starring an unknown, Sam Riley, as well as Samantha Morton as Curtis’s wife, took Cannes by storm.
The director had to plough his own money into the black-and-white film about Curtis’s creative flowering and eventual suicide 27 years ago, because he was refused United Kingdom public cash for his first feature film. East Midlands Media, a regional film development agency, provided some of the money, which led to the film being mostly shot in Nottingham.
Cannes’s second prize, known as the Grand Prize, went to a Japanese film, The Mourning Forest. The work, directed by Naomi Kawase, explores mourning and grief through the story of a retirement-home resident and a caretaker.
The award for best director went to the American painter-director Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the true story of a French journalist who was paralysed after a stroke and learned to write again by blinking his eyelid.
Gus van Sant, who won the Palme d’Or in 2003 for Elephant, won a special prize for Cannes’s 60th anniversary for the impressionistic Paranoid Park, which tells the story of a teenage skateboarder who accidentally kills a security guard.
The best screenplay was awarded to the German-Turkish director Fatih Akin for The Edge of Heaven, a cross-border tale of love and reconciliation that he both wrote and directed.
A Russian, Konstantin Lavronenko, took the best-actor award for his portrayal of a troubled husband in The Banishment, while the prize for best actress went to South Korea’s Jeon Do-yeon, who played a widow mourning her husband in Secret Sunshine.
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s adaptation of her graphic novel about growing up during Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, shared the jury prize with Stellet Licht (Silent Night), Carlos Reygadas’s story of love set among Mennonite farmers of northern Mexico.
The jurors broke with tradition earlier in the week to award a top prize to the incomplete California Dreamin’, a film about American soldiers in a small Romanian village.—Guardian Unlimited Â