Russian director Alexander Sokurov has won the Golden Lion at the 68th Venice Film Festival for his interpretation of the German legend Faust.
The two-hour German-language offering, about a man who sells his soul to the devil, divided critics, some of whom thought it ponderous, although it was among those tipped to win the coveted prize.
Faust completes Sokurov’s series of films on the theme of corrupting power, the first three of which are Moloch (1999) about Adolf Hitler, Taurus (2000) about Vladimir Lenin and The Sun (2005) about Emperor Hirohito.
US director Darren Aronofsky – head of the Venice jury – when presenting the prize admitted that the judges were unanimous in their decision.
“There are some films that make you cry, there are some films that make you laugh; there are some films that change you for ever after you see them, and this is one of them,” he added.
Best actor went to the German-born Irish actor Michael Fassbender for his role as a young American executive with a sex addiction in Steve McQueen’s controversial film Shame.
Fassbender previously starred in the British director’s Bafta-winning debut Hunger and took the lead in another Venice competition entry David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, where he played psychoanalyst Carl Jung.
China’s Cai Shangjun collected the Silver Lion for People Mountain People Sea, a revenge movie about a man who goes on a thousand-mile quest to find his brother’s killer, set in the rugged landscapes of south west China.
Hong Kong’s Deanie Yip continued the Asian success story at this year’s festival, taking the best actress award for her starring role in Ann Hui’s master-servant story A Simple Life.
The 63-year-old veteran of Chinese cinema won over audiences with her moving portrayal of an elderly domestic help, receiving three standing ovations at the film’s screening.
The Jury Prize celebrated homegrown talent with Terraferma, a drama about immigration from Italian writer/director Emanuele Crialese.
Perhaps surprisingly, Roman Polanski’s Carnage, a comedy of manners from the play by Yasmina Reza, starring Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster and John C Reilly and George Clooney’s political drama The Ides of March failed to make an impact at the awards.
Faust, Shame, A Simple Life, Terraferma, Carnage and The Ides of March will be screening in the BFI London Film Festival, 12-27 October.