Scarcely a week after the announcement that a more barebones European Film Awards (EFA) ceremony was to take place Dec. 11 in Berlin with only nominees in attendance, even that compromise proved to be too bold. Given that the EFAs already vie for global attention with Stateside awards campaigns and end-of-year lists, it must be quite a disappointment for organizers and nominees alike. Still, the show — or a virtual version of it — must go on, and as ever, given the vast spread of territories and categories it covers, there’s plenty to be gleaned from the 34th edition’s slate.
The vagaries of the rules for the European film nominations mean that oftentimes the resulting lineup is a strange mix of shiny new titles and others at the exhausted end of an awards trail that peaked some time ago.
Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman,” for example, scored a berth in the Discovery category for debut films, and an actress nom for Carey Mulligan, despite premiering almost two long, storied years ago.
Similarly, of the five noms for European film, Jasmila Žbanić’s terrific “Quo Vadis, Aida?” and Florian Zeller’s wrenching “The Father” both already figured in April’s Academy Awards, whereas Juho Kuosmanen’s lovely “Compartment No. 6,” and Julia Ducournau’s ferocious “Titane” feel fresher, having not earned their stripes — and major laurels — until Cannes in July. But for timely advantage, you’d be unwise to bet against Paolo Sorrentino’s busily Fellini-fied autofiction “The Hand of God”; not only is the paint barely dry after its Venice 2021 premiere, but Sorrentino has also won EFA best film twice before.
Another tick in favor of the Italian movie is Sorrentino’s nomination for Euro director, an award that tends to go in lockstep with best film. Only once in the past 10 years has there been a split (in 2011, Susanne Bier took the director trophy for “In a Better World” while Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia” took best film). This tendency makes “Compartment No. 6’s” prospects a little dimmer, as the only one of the five best film nominees not to also score a director nod; instead, Radu Jude snuck in for his anarchic Berlin winner “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn.” But with Žbanić and Ducournau both in the running, there is also the possibility of a woman victory in the category, which would only be the third ever after Bier and Maren Ade (“Toni Erdmann”).
Sometimes it works the other way around. Fewer nominations can lead to a win, as all the film’s eggs get put in the one category basket. This may prove the case for actress, in which Renate Reinsve scores one of just two nominations (the other being screenplay) for the widely beloved “The Worst Person in the World.” Joachim Trier’s film is perhaps the most surprising omission from the film and director lists, given that it’s hotly tipped for an international Oscar slot.
In actor the field is even tighter, with Franz Rogowski gaining traction for his superb turn in “The Great Freedom,” while Anthony Hopkins could easily add an EFA to the Oscar he already won for “The Father,” and Vincent Lindon’s reputation plus a wildly against type performance in “Titane” could also turn heads. But let’s not disparage the chances of Yuriy Borisov (opposite the also nominated, also great Seidi Haarla) who is simply wonderful in “Compartment No. 6” — just one of five films this immensely charismatic newcomer premiered in 2021.
Because of this fragmentation, it’s unlikely this edition will see as emphatic a winner as “Another Round” last year or “The Favourite,” “Cold War” or “The Square” before that, when all took home at least four major awards. This year the only titles with the requisite nominations to replicate that success are “Quo Vadis, Aida?” and “Titane,” neither of which seems likely to effect a sweep, however worthy. Which means that on Dec. 11, we could be looking at a more open EFAs than we’ve seen recently, even if the ceremony itself ends up being more closed than any of us had hoped.