5 Recent Palme d’Or Winners

There’s less than a month left until my favourite film festival of the year, Cannes, holds its annual awards. A few short days ago it published its Official Selection list, which you can have a look at here. With two-time winner Cate Blanchett presiding over the jury, out of the 18 entries for the Palme d’Or, 8 come from filmmakers who have been distinguished with awards at Cannes in the past, while 4 of them are complete newcomers to the famous French festival. We’ll talk about this year’s edition when the time comes – for now, I’ll just list my top 5 Palme d’Or winning films of the last decade – in chronological order.

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007, Cristian Mungiu, Romania)

This film is set during the final years of Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s reign of terror, and centres around two female students who try to seek help for a then illegal and heavily punishable abortion. Praised for its minimalism and dramatic intensity of the explored themes, it won numerous other honours, including Best Film at the European Film Awards, but was controversially excluded from the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film segment.

2. The White Ribbon (2009, Michael Haneke, Austria)

Haneke’s first Palme d’Or-winning film is set in Northern Germany just before the First World War, and sets to explore ‘the roots of evil’. It is a powerful end product that delivers harrowing emotions and paints a vivid picture of the times at the dawn of last century. It has received much critical acclaim, winning the Best Film prize at the European Film Awards, as well as the foreign language category at the Academy Awards.

3. The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick, US)

I have never yet met a person who told me they had mixed feelings about The Tree of Life. The ones who watched it are split into two categories – the ones who loved it and the ones who hated it. This is a mood piece more than a film (after all, it’s a Terrence Malick production), it is very slow and has no readily apparent plot. A huge box office hit, considering its experimental nature, and included on many critics’ top picks of the year (and the decade), nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, the film has a modest rating of 6.8 on IMDb – the love/hate relationship with the public is clear.

4. Amour (2012, Michael Haneke, Austria)

Only two years separated Michael Haneke’s first Palme d’Or from Michael Haneke’s second Palme d’Or. This time, the legendary Austrian filmmaker made a departure from German language films and switched to French – in Amour, he tells the story of an octogenarian couple’s troubles with sickness and old age. A winner of both the European Film Award top prize and the Oscar for foreign language entries (alongside other nominations including Best Picture), the film remained a reference point in global fine cinema.

5. The Square (2017, Ruben Ostlund, Sweden)

Included on the Academy Award shortlist of this year, but ultimately failing to win, perhaps to its controversial take on a number of themes, the Swedish masterpiece’s merits were well received in Cannes. The European Film Awards also showed great enthusiasm towards the film – the clean sweep of 6 wins out of its 6 nominations tells the story of its success rather vividly. A delicious satire of both modern art and modern liberal society, The Square is a full-on critique of human nature – just like Ruben Ostlund’s previous film, Force Majeure, one which I will wholeheartedly recommend as a closing note.



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