All Quiet on the Western Front sweeps Baftas as Banshees also gets an Oscar boost

Anti-war film takes record-breaking seven awards, including best picture and best director, while Irish black comedy The Banshees of Inisherin and Elvis biopic both win four awards

Revisionist German war drama All Quiet on the Western Front has swept the board at the British Academy Film Awards in London, taking a remarkable seven awards, including best picture and best director for Edward Berger.

The Netflix film, an adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel about an idealistic German soldier sent to the trenches, scored a record-equalling 14 nominations last month but few anticipated it would capitalise on so many of them.

“It’s just incredible,” said producer Malte Grunert, picking up the best film prize. He spoke of how the story, about a generation “poisoned by right-wing propaganda into thinking war is an adventure” spoke to today as much as to the time in which the book was written or set.

Cinematographer James Friend, producer Malte Grunert and director Edward Berger.
Cinematographer James Friend, producer Malte Grunert and director Edward Berger. Photograph: Ian West/PA

The film also took awards for best film not in the English language, cinematography, adapted screenplay, original score and best sound: an extraordinary run of success that makes it the first foreign language film to win more than four Baftas (as Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, did in 2001) and bodes well for the nine prizes it is in the running for at next month’s Oscars.

Picking up his best director prize, Berger asked the audience to remember the people of Ukraine ahead of the one-year anniversary of the start of the war with Russia.

The night’s other big winner was The Banshees of Inisherin, which also gained significant momentum in this year’s Oscars race.

Martin McDonagh’s black comedy, about a falling out in 1920s Ireland between friends played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, took outstanding British film, best original screenplay and best supporting actor for Barry Keoghan and best supporting actress for Kerry Condon.

Patrick Stewart presents the outstanding British film winner award to Martin McDonagh for The Banshees of Inisherin.
Patrick Stewart presents the outstanding British film winner award to Martin McDonagh for The Banshees of Inisherin. Photograph: Stuart Wilson/Bafta/Getty Images for Bafta

Picking up the outstanding British film prize, McDonagh sought to explain his movie’s unlikely qualification in the outstanding British film category: Film4 contributed significant funding – and Rosie, the stand-in donkey, hails from Stoke-on-Trent.

Austin Butler was the surprise winner of the leading actor prize for Elvis, one of four awards won by Baz Luhrmann’s biopic (the others were casting, costume and makeup and hair). Butler, who beat nominees including Farrell, Brendan Fraser and Bill Nighy, ended his speech by paying tribute to the Presley family.

“I cannot thank you guys enough,” he said. “Your love and for showing me who Elvis truly was. I hope I’ve made you proud.”

Speaking to reporters backstage, Butler touched on the death of Lisa Marie Presley, shortly after the Golden Globes last month. “It’s an unimaginably tragic time,” he said. “Grief is a long process.”

Meanwhile Cate Blanchett was named best actress for her role as an imperious conductor in Todd Field’s Tár, a film she described on stage as “a very dangerous and potentially career-ending undertaking”.

Blanchett thanked her family as “it took me away from you an enormous lot”. She singled out her “mum for holding the fort and my four extraordinary children” before ending her speech by paying tribute to Field. “This is wonderful,” she said, looking at her award, but Tár “has changed my life.”

Cate Blanchett with her award for Tár.
Cate Blanchett with her award for Tár. Photograph: Stuart Wilson/Bafta/Getty Images for Bafta

Speaking to reporters backstage, Cate Blanchett said she was “slightly overwhelmed” by her victory. “It’s been such an exceptional year for female performers. There have been so many idiosyncratic, particular performances which I’ve been inspired by. For me to receive this is extraordinary and a very meaningful honour.

Blanchett added that the character of Lydia Tár “couldn’t be further away” from her own experience, “but perhaps where I deeply connected with her circumstance – she’s more than a character, she’s a special crisis – is that she’s coming to the end of something, the end of a teaching cycle, an artistic cycle”. She compared this to her own experience of turning 50, adding that the only opportunity out of the pandemic, was to “make changes you’ve wanted to make for a very long time”.

Meanwhile Condon’s win heralded an early moment of drama in the ceremony – one which was edited out of the TV broadcast. Her award was presented by Troy Kotsur, winner of last year’s supporting actor Bafta for his role in Coda. Kotsur, who is deaf, signed the announcement, but this was misread by his interpreter as Carey Mulligan, who was nominated for her role in little-seen Harvey Weinstein drama She Said.

Richard E Grant makes his entrance.
Richard E Grant makes his entrance. Photograph: Kate Green/Bafta/Getty Images for Bafta

An audible gasp rang around the Royal Festival Hall as Mulligan’s name was spoken, as she was considered an outsider for the prize. About 10 seconds later, after Mulligan had taken to her feet and was en route to the stage, the error was corrected.

This commotion meant the ceremony kicked off with an unexpected echo of the climax of 2017 Academy Awards, when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty incorrectly named La La Land best picture, before eventually correcting it to Moonlight.

Otherwise, the 76th Baftas were a good-natured affair, presided over by incoming host Richard E Grant in breathless form. A mild script made Grant’s own ambition and excitability the butt of the joke, while genuflecting to everyone else in the room.

“Nobody on my watch gets slapped tonight,” he said, in reference to Will Smith’s attack on presenter Chris Rock at last March’s Oscars. “Well, only on the back.”

Grant was briefly overcome while introducing the in memoriam section of the show; he lost his wife, the dialect coach, Joan Washington, in 2021. Stars and film-makers remembered this year included Hugh Hudson, Angela Lansbury, Raquel Welch, Jean-Luc Godard, Leslie Phillips, Ray Liotta, Anne Heche, Sylvia Syms and Robbie Coltrane.

Charlotte Wells with her award for Aftersun.
Charlotte Wells with her award for Aftersun. Photograph: Stuart Wilson/Bafta/Getty Images for Bafta

Such success for Berger and McDonagh’s films came at the expense of another Oscars frontrunner: Everything Everywhere All at Once.

The wacky multiverse comedy directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert came away with a single prize, for best editing, while Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama The Fabelmans failed to take the original screenplay prize – the only category in which it was Bafta-nominated.

Charlotte Wells, the young Scottish film-maker whose film Aftersun topped many critics’ polls last year – including the Guardian’s – took outstanding debut. The film, which stars Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio as a father and daughter on holiday in Turkey in the late 1990s, was inspired by a similar trip she took with her own late father.

In her speech, Wells said that the film had been described as “a eulogy of sorts to my dad”. “By definition,” she continued, “he’s not here. But my mum is and always has been, so this is for her. Literally, as I overpacked.”

Helen Mirren at the Baftas.
Helen Mirren at the Baftas. Photograph: Stuart Wilson/Bafta/Getty Images for Bafta

Best documentary was won by Navalny, Daniel Roher’s film about the 2020 plot to kill Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny by poisoning. The film features extensive interviews with the recuperating Navalny, and follows the efforts of investigative journalist Christo Grozev and Maria Pevchikh to uncover the truth of Putin’s possible involvement.

Last week, Grozev tweeted that he and his family had been banned from attending the ceremony because he poses “a public security risk”. On stage, Roher said the world “must not be afraid to stand against authoritarianism in all its forms”.

Speaking backstage, Navalny producer Odessa Rae said: “It’s deeply saddening for us. Christo was actually the introduction to this film for us, he led us to meet Alexei Navalny. He’s such an important part of this film.”

The Prince and Princess of Wales were in attendance at the ceremony, but did not speak on stage. Helen Mirren, who took the title role in Stephen Frears’ 2006 film The Queen, presented a segment paying tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, who had served as president of Bafta.

Mirren described her as “the world’s leading lady but as mysterious as a film star”.


Catherine Shoard and Nadia Khomami

The GuardianTramp

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