The pic, which had topped the noms with eight mentions, also went home with two craft prizes, best cinematographer for Manuel Alberto Claro, and production designer for Jette Lehmann.
Von Trier, who has taken a vow of silence after his controversial remarks in Cannes, did not attend the event, and did not deliver a message either. However, he had asked his wife, Bente Froge, who accepted the award on his behalf, to wave to the audience “in a kind and friendly way,” which she did.
The evening had opened with a speech from German filmmaker Wim Wenders, who is the European Film Academy’s prexy. He said that there were a lot of European summits going on at the moment, referring to all the meetings focused on the economic crisis. “But this is a different kind of Europe,” he said. “A more utopian one, made up of people who love movies. This Europe is in very good health. We have shown that separating is the wrong model. Integration and cooperation is the only way.”
As well as “Melancholia,” the night’s other big winner was Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech,” which nabbed three prizes: Colin Firth was named best actor, Tariq Anwar grabbed the editor award, and the film also took the People’s Choice award, which was voted for by the public.
Susanne Bier was named best director for contempo drama “In a Better World,” and the screenwriter prize went to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for “The Kid With a Bike,” which focuses on an abandoned child and a woman who takes pity on him.
Tilda Swinton was named best actress for troubled teen tale “We Need to Talk about Kevin.”
Both Swinton and Firth were no shows at an event that lacked major star wattage.
Helmer-scribe Hans Van Nuffel won the Discovery Award for “Oxygen,” which follows a boy suffering from cystic fibrosis.
Ludovic Bource took the award for composer for “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius’ love letter to Hollywood.
The docu prize was picked up by Wenders’ 3D dance film “Pina.”
The animated feature film kudo was won by “Chico and Rita,” directed by Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba.
Stephen Frears was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, while Mads Mikkelsen was feted with the European Achievement in World Cinema award.
French thesp Michel Piccoli, who toplined “We Have a Pope,” was given the Special Honorary Award. The award, which was presented by director Volker Schlondorff and thesp Bruno Ganz, was a surprise and was awarded “without any deeper reason than love,” Schlondorff said.
The short film prize went to “The Wholly Family,” which was helmed by Terry Gilliam. “Normally when you make a short, you go on to make features. I seem to be moving in the opposite direction,” Gilliam said.