Revisionist German war drama All Quiet on the Western Front has swept the board at the British Academy Film Awards in London, picking up a remarkable seven prizes, 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, earned a record 14 nominations last month, but few predicted it would benefit from so many.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said producer Malte Grunert, receiving the award for best film. He spoke of how the story of a generation “poisoned by right-wing propaganda into believing that war is an adventure” spoke as much to today as it did to the time when the book was written or set.
The film also took awards for Best Non-English Language Film, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score and Best Sound: an extraordinary run of success that makes it the first foreign film to win more than four Baftas (like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, did in 2001) and bodes well for the nine awards it’s up for at next month’s Academy Awards.
Berger took home the award for best director and asked the audience to remember the people of Ukraine ahead of the one-year anniversary 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 Oscar race.
Martin McDonagh’s black comedy, about a conflict 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.
Taking home the Outstanding British Film award, McDonagh sought to explain his film’s unlikely qualifications in the Outstanding British Film category: Film4 contributed significant funding – and Rosie, the standing donkey, hails from Stoke-on-Trent.
Austin Butler was the surprise winner of the leading actor award for Elvis, one of four awards won by Baz Luhrmann’s biopic (the others were casting, costume and hair and makeup). Butler, who beat nominees including Farrell, Brendan Fraser and Bill Nighy, ended his speech by paying tribute to the Presley family.
“I can’t thank you enough,” he said. “Your love and for showing me who Elvis really was. I hope I’ve made you proud.”
Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett was named best actress for her role as an imperial conductor in Todd Field’s Tár, a film she described on stage as “a very dangerous and potentially career-ending undertaking”.
Blanchett thanked the family because “it took a huge amount away from you”. She singled out her “mom for holding down 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.”
Meanwhile, Condon’s win heralded an early moment of drama in the ceremony — one that was edited out of the telecast. 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 the little-seen Harvey Weinstein drama She Said.
An audible gasp rang around the Royal Festival Hall when Mulligan’s name was announced, as she was considered an outsider for the award. About 10 seconds later, after Mulligan had gotten up and was on his way to the stage, the error was corrected.
This uproar meant the ceremony kicked off with an unexpected echo of the climax of the 2017 Oscars, when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as best picture, before eventually correcting it to Moonlight.
Otherwise, the 76th Baftas were a good-natured affair, presided over by incoming presenter Richard E Grant in breathless form. A bland script made Grant’s own ambition and excitement the butt of the joke, while confusing everyone else in the room.
“Nobody on my watch gets bangs tonight,” he said, referring to Will Smith’s attack on host Chris Rock at last March’s Academy Awards. “Well, just on the back.”
Grant was briefly overcome while introducing the memoriam portion of the show; he lost his wife, dialect coach Joan Washington, in 2021. Stars and filmmakers remembered this year included Hugh Hudson, Angela Lansbury, Raquel Welch, Jean-Luc Godard, Leslie Phillips, Ray Liotta, Anne Heche, Sylvia Syms and Robbie Coltrane.
Such success for Berger and McDonagh’s films came at the expense of another Oscar front-runner: Everything Everywhere All at Once.
The wacky multiverse comedy directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert came away with a single award, for best editing, while Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama The Fabelmans failed to pick up the original screenplay award – the only category in which it was nominated for a Bafta.
Charlotte Wells, the young Scottish filmmaker whose film Aftersun topped many critics’ polls last year – including Guardians – made an outstanding debut. The film, which stars Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio as 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 his speech, Wells said the film had been described as “kind of a eulogy for my dad”. “By definition,” she continued, “he’s not here. But my mom is and always has been, so this is for her. Literally, that I overpacked.”
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 recovering Navalny and follows the efforts of the investigative journalist Christo Grozev and Maria Pevchikh to reveal the truth about Putin’s possible involvement.
Last week, Grozev tweeted that he and his family had been banned from attending the ceremony because he posed “a public security risk”. On stage, Roher said the world “must not be afraid to stand up to 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 Alexei Navalny. He’s such an important part of this film.”
The Prince and Princess of Wales were present at the ceremony, but did not speak on stage. Helen Mirren, who took the title role in Stephen Frear’s 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 movie star”.