CINEMA

France’s Florian Zeller revels in Oscar win for ‘The Father’

French writer Florian Zeller won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for 'The Father', which he also directed.
French writer Florian Zeller won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for 'The Father', which he also directed. Lewis Joly POOL/AFP

French author Florian Zeller took the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay on Sunday for the cinematic version of his own stage production The Father, which also saw veteran British actor Anthony Hopkins win a second best actor Oscar.

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Zeller accepted the award from Paris, where the Academy had set up a venue for artists unable to travel to Los Angeles for the ceremony for America’s top film awards.

“To be able to share this moment, this recognition and this joy with Anthony Hopkins makes it all the more meaningful for me,” Zeller told AFP Agency in an interview after the ceremony.

“I don’t separate my desire to make this film from my desire to work with him, I wrote it for him,” said the 41-year-old, who also directed of the film.

Zeller said the adaptation of his play allowed him to go further into the story, which follows an old man played by Hopkins slipping into a disturbing bout of dementia.

“I wanted The Father to be not just a story but an experience, the experience of what it might mean to lose all your bearings, including as a spectator,” he said.

“I wanted this film to be able to extend that into an even more immersive experience, which the language of cinema allows.”

Oldest best actor

At age 83, Hopkins became the oldest actor to ever win a competitive Oscar, surpassing the late Christopher Plummer, who won an acting award at age 82.

Hopkins was a no-show at the ceremony, neither travelling to any of the venues to receive his second Oscar nor delivering or providing an acceptance speech.

Zeller shared the best adapted screenplay Oscar with Christopher Hampton, who translated the stage play into English.

He told AFP he was now working on a new project called The Son, an adaptation of another of his plays, which is part of the same trilogy as The Father.

Filming is set to begin this summer in New York City, with Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman in leading roles.

French sound and resistance

The Father has not yet been seen in France, where theatres have been closed since last October. The film was released in February in the United States, where movie theatres have been reopening in recent weeks.

Other French recipients of Oscars included Nicolas Becker, part of a team receiving an award for sound, an integral part of the film Sound of Metal, the story of a rock drummer who loses his hearing.

The award for best short documentary went to Colette, directed by American Anthony Giacchino and produced by Alice Doyard of France.

The film follows Colette Marin-Catherine, 90, who was part of the French resistance, as she travels with a 17-year-old history enthusiast, Lucie Fouble, to the site of Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany, where her brother died during World War Two.

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“This award and this film are a tribute to women of all ages, around the world, who join hands and fight for justice,” Doyard said in her acceptance speech. “Vive Colette and vive la France!”

Film awards marked by Covid pandemic

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the 93rd Oscars were held two months later than usual in a train station instead of a usual Hollywood theatre. Other venues were set up in London.

Some recipients referred to the fact that movie theatres have been closed for much of the year.

“Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible,” said Frances McDormand in her acceptance speech for the best actress award for her role in Nomadland, the big winner of the evening.

The film, a road move about marginalised Americans roaming the West in vans, also received the best picture award and best director award for Chloe Zhao.

(with newswires)

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