Going into tonight's awards ceremony at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, there was no clear front-runner for the event's highest honor, the Palme d'Or.
Prior to the show, buzz in Cannes was deafening for Xavier Dolan's first film to screen in competition "Mommy," the Dardennes brothers' harrowing "Two Days, One Night," and the challenging Russian epic "Leviathan." Yet ultimately the Palme went to Cannes regular, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan for his three-hour plus drama "Winter Sleep," a Shakespearean tale of a disgruntled landowner contemplating his affluent lifestyle. Dolan settled for the Jury Prize (along with Jean-Luc Godard for "Goodbye to Language"), while "Leviathan" writers Andrey Zvyaginstev and Oleg Negin were awarded Best Screenplay. The Dardennes, who both have already won Palme d'Or twice before (for "The Child" and "Rosetta"), were shut out as was Marion Cotillard's much-praised performance.
At the press conference immediately following the awards, Campion admitted that she was a "little afraid" to watch Ceylan's film. "I was thinking, oh my god, I'm going to need to take a toilet break," she said. "But I sat down, and the film had such a beautiful rhythm and it took me in. I could have stayed there for another couple hours. It was masterful."
"The real gift of the film is how honest it is," she added. "It's ruthless. If I had the guts to be as honest as [Ceylan], I'd be proud of myself."
In awarding both Dolan and Godard the Jury Prize, the Jury awarded the youngest and oldest filmmaker with films in the competition. Asked if coupling them together was intentional, Campion said "yes, we were aware."
"All of us owe a lot of our life blood to Godard," Campion said. "It's so wonderful that we've had this opportunity to heartfully give him the prize. When I saw his new film, I wasn't expecting it, but I was blown away by it."
Campion also had high praise for "Mommy." "It's such a great, brilliant and modern film," she said. "[Xavier] Dolan is kind of a genius, I think."