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Princess of Asturias Awards

05/09/2013

Michael Haneke, Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts

Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke was bestowed with the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, as made public on 9th May in Oviedo by the jury responsible for conferring said Award.

Michael Haneke, Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts ©FPA

The jury for this Award -convened by the Prince of Asturias Foundation- was chaired by José Lladó y Fernández-Urrutia and composed of José Luis Cienfuegos Marcello, Marzio Conti, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart Martínez de Irujo, Duke of Huéscar, José María Flotats i Picas, Guillermo García-Alcalde Fernández, Carmen Giménez Martín, Catalina Luca de Tena y García Conde, Hans Meinke Paege, Elena Ochoa Foster, Vicente Todolí Cervera, Carlos Urroz, Amelia Valcárcel Bernaldo de Quirós, Benjamin Weil, Miguel Zugaza Miranda and Jose Antonio Caicoya Cores (acting as secretary).

This candidature was put forward by the Austrian Ambassador to Spain, Rudolf Lennkh. It was seconded by Claudia Schmied, Federal Minister for Education, Arts and Culture of Austria.

Considered "the poet of the cinema of discomfort", Michael Haneke (Munich, 23rd March 1942) studied Philosophy, Psychology and Theatre at the University of Vienna. His penetrating, radical gaze on society has allowed him to explore uncharted terrain to become one of the leading auteurs of contemporary European cinema. He worked as a screenwriter for Südwestfunk (Southwest Germany's public broadcasting corporation) between 1967 and 1970, since which he has worked as an independent director and screenwriter. As a playwright, he has directed stage productions in Germany and Vienna of plays by Strindberg and Goethe, as well as operas. He made his television debut in 1974 with After Liverpool, following which he directed another seven films for German television, including an adaptation of Kafka's The Castle.

His debut film was The Seventh Continent (1989), a stark analysis of the self-destruction of a middle-class Viennese family. This was the first in what Haneke conceived as a "trilogy of emotional glaciation", completed by Benny's Video (1992) and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994). In his relentless, personal exposure of reality, Haneke portrays situations of violence, sex and repression, often the result of isolation and the characters' lack of communication as individuals or as a group. The angst that this experience creates in the viewer is a resource that Haneke exploits to stimulate reflection about the structures and principles underlying modern society, including cinema itself. He achieved international fame in 1997 with Funny Games, a macabre game of horror and humiliation. The film's success spawned a US remake, which Haneke himself directed some years later. It is precisely in the representation of generally unjustified violence, which is suggested more than manifest, and in his unconventional narrative and visual structures where the Austrian filmmaker reveals his talent as an innovator. In 2000, he shot Code Unknown. The following year, The Pianist, based on the novel by Nobel Prize Winner for Literature Elfriede Jelinek, won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

Haneke once again received critical acclaim with Hidden (2005), in which he narrates the ravages caused in a couple as a consequence of the appearance of videos of their daily lives filmed without their knowledge. For this film, he received the awards for Best Director at Cannes and Best Film and Best Director at the 2005 European Film Awards, among others. The White Ribbon (2009) is a black and white portrait of a rural community dominated by hypocrisy, moral rigidity and authoritarian education. Internationally acclaimed, it won the Palme D'Or at Cannes, as well as the awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director at the European Film Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. With his latest film, Love (2012), a portrait of true, unconditional love and of the desolation and despair of physical deterioration in old age, Haneke once again won the Palme D'Or at Cannes and another Golden Globe Award, as well as the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

In addition to these distinctions, Michael Haneke holds numerous other international film awards and, in 2007, was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he received the Gold Medal from Madrid's Círculo de Bellas Artes, coinciding with the premiere of his staging of Così fan tutte at the Teatro Real.

As stated in the Statutes of the Foundation, the Prince of Asturias Awards are aimed at rewarding "the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions". Within this spirit, the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts will be bestowed on those "whose work in Film, Theatre, Dance, Music, Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture or any other form of artistic expression constitutes a significant contribution to the cultural heritage of mankind".

This year a total of 33 candidatures from Argentina, Austria, Colombia, Cuba, the United States, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Peru, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Spain ran for the award.

This was the first of eight Prince of Asturias Awards, which are being bestowed this year for the thirty-third time. The rest of awards will be announced in the coming weeks in the following order: Social Sciences, Communication and Humanities, Technical Scientific Research, Literature, International Cooperation and Sports, with the Concord award being announced in September.

Each of the Prince of Asturias Awards, which date back to 1981, is endowed with 50,000 Euros, a commissioned sculpture donated by Joan Miró, a diploma and an insignia. The awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a grand ceremony chaired by H.R.H. the Prince of Asturias.

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