03 April 2014
Michael Haneke is awarded the Sonning Prize 2014
The Sonning Prize 2014 will go to the Austrian film director Michael Haneke. At DKK 1 million, the University of Copenhagen’s biennial Sonning Prize is the largest cultural award in Denmark. The award is given to an individual who has done commendable work for the benefit of European culture.
The 72-year-old Austrian film director Michael Haneke is one of the greatest and most original contemporary European film artists. His first film, Der Siebente Continent, was released in 1988. La Pianiste (2001), based on a novel by Nobel Prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek, gave Haneke his major breakthrough as a film artist. Recently, he attracted international attention with the psychological masterpiece Amour in 2012. In it, Haneke depicts a long, enduring relationship between two people, including – without sentimentality or illusions – the end of life and the coming of death.
“Michael Haneke is a completely original director. He explores and renews the language of film, and confronts his audience with the central existential and social challenges of our time. Haneke pares things right down to the bone. He confronts us with ourselves, with our relationships with those closest to us, and not least, with our relationships with the ‘others’, both within and outside Europe,” says film professor Ib Bondebjerg of the University of Copenhagen.
Professor Bondebjerg, one of those who nominated Haneke for the prize, stresses that he is more than just one of Europe’s major film artists. In his art, and in a unique way, Haneke also invites us to look at the Europeans and European culture:
“With his films, Michael Haneke makes our modern European culture visible to us without idealising it. He focuses on the dilemmas and challenges faced by the modern, global world, with all its technology and communications. It is the European individual who is at the centre.”
Becoming a European artist was almost inevitable
Haneke is an Austrian citizen, but was born in Germany in 1942. His father was a German actor and director, his mother an Austrian actress. His roots in these two countries are reflected throughout his now-extensive film and television output. He has made films in German, French and English. His films have been funded by a wide range of European countries and foundations, and they have reached far and wide around Europe and into the United States, via cinemas, TV, festivals, DVDs and online platforms.
“Although Michael Haneke is a demanding and provocative film director, his films have a major European and international audience,” says Ib Bondebjerg. He adds that Haneke’s two most recent movies, Amour and Das Weisse Band, are perhaps his strongest contribution to European culture, and represent his artistic talents at their peak.
Where the psychological masterpiece Amour (2012) portrays love’s autumn and winter, Das Weisse Band (2009) is a completely different kind of film. It depicts the social and psychological conflicts in a small German village before World War I. Here, Haneke shows us the root causes of war and crises as well as conflicts in European culture. At once moving and harrowing, this masterpiece delves into the history of modern European culture.
Time and place
The Sonning Prize 2014 will be awarded on 18 June in the Ceremonial Hall at the University of Copenhagen.
About the Sonning Prize
Read about the Sonning Prize and previous winners at http://event.ku.dk/sonning_prize/
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