VENICE, Italy: Dark drama “Joker” about the origins of the villainous character won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, while Roman Polanski’s military drama about France’s notorious Dreyfus affair took the runner-up prize.
Joaquin Phoenix, who won rave reviews at the festival, plays DC Comics superhero Batman’s nemesis, and the story follows his transformation from vulnerable loner to confident villain.
“Joker” distances itself from typical superhero films, with sombre lighting and dark music throughout.
“I want to thank Warner Bros and DC for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie,” director Todd Phillips said in his acceptance speech, also thanking Phoenix for trusting him with his “insane talent”.
“There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix … Joaquin is the fiercest and bravest and most open-minded lion that I know.”
The film was generating awards buzz even before Venice. The festival is considered a launch pad for the awards season, having premiered Oscar winners like “Roma” and “Birdman”.
In a surprise move, Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy” took the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize.