Accepting his award, seventy one year old Andersson said he had been greatly influenced by Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 neorealist film Bicycle Thieves, noting that it was humanistic and displayed true empathy. “That’s what a movie should be,” he insisted.
The Silver Lion, for best director went to Russia’s Andrei Konchalovksy for the largely silent The Postman’s White Nights.
The acting prizes went to Adam Driver, soon to be seen in the next Star Wars film, and the Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher, who play a couple in the New York romantic drama Hungry Hearts.
A documentary about the legacy of Indonesian massacres, The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer, won the Grand Jury Prize.
The Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad won a screenplay award for the Tehran-set Tales and Turkey’s Kaan Mujdeci won a special prize for Sivas, about a lonely boy who befriends a fighting dog.
The programmers at Venice and Toronto often fight over securing the world premieres of the films that will go on to Oscar success in the months ahead, but this year, while the world’s oldest film festival managed to attract some of the world’s biggest stars to the canal-strewn island, its jury conspicuously snubbed Hollywood fare, such as Ethan Hawke’s turn as a drone pilot in Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill, Michael Keaton’s aging actor in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman and Al Pacino’s star turn in Barry Levinson’s The Humbling. The Hollywood Reporter’s European critic Scott Roxborough said Venice had stayed true to form, by supporting what he called “the grand tradition of European art house cinema.”
But outside the trade press, almost no other media will report the winner of a festival unless it would be of interest to their audience, meaning that to the public at large, Venice 2014 will sink without a trace and the Oscar campaigns will receive very little momentum. And even though most of the major awards are handed out by groups within the industry, they’re not going to be showering A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence with trophies come the spring – and if they do, the result will be that the awards become as irrelevant to most film-goers as the festivals where the films first jostle for position.