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Cannes 2023 awards predictions: Will Jonathan Glazer's 'The Zone of Interest' win the Palme d'Or?

Who will win this year's Palme d'Or?
Who will win this year's Palme d'Or? Copyright Getty Images
Copyright Getty Images
By David MouriquandFrédéric Ponsard
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Not long now until we find out which film this year will receive the coveted Palme d'Or. Here are our predictions.

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It’s the final stretch of the Cannes Film Festival and the awards are announced tonight.

It’s been an impressive year with little-to-no ‘boos’ in screenings – Cannes audiences do love an audible reaction. But this year, it’s been mostly clapping. The 21 films in Competition have been uniformly strong, with one or two minor disappointments along the way – we’re looking at you, Asteroid City.

So, brass tacks: Who will walk away with the Palme d’Or and which films do we think Ruben Östlund and his jury will honour this year?

Here are our predictions.

Palme d’Or

Fred: The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer

Palme or not, The Zone of Interest will go down as one of the major films about the Holocaust, by inverting representations and points of view. Based on the book of the same name by Martin Amis, who died on the day of the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Glazer delivers a chilling and unforgettable adaptation, both in form and content. By placing the spectator in the role of entomologist - the film is entirely composed of still shots, an aesthetic and narrative achievement - in the family life of the head of the SS camp at Auschwitz in 1944, we see horror at work, in the shoes of the Nazis who are on the right side of the wall, reminding us of all the compromises, blindness and fanaticism of which human beings are capable. The film is set to a contemporary score that, like the film itself, chisels and resonates the dark desires of humanity. A masterpiece.

David: The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer

This is hardly putting myself out there, as The Zone of Interest is everyone’s top pick to win this year’s Palme d’Or. And Fred has said it all. For his first film since Under The Skin, Jonathan Glazer delivered something formally daring and deeply impactful; the way he depicts none of the death camp’s atrocities directly and chooses to set the horrors on the edges to better mirror humanity’s capacity for detachment and complicity is breathtaking. This prodigiously executed film is also Glazer’s first entry at Cannes, so no chance of any criticisms regarding rewarding the usual suspects. Expect a lot of bemusement and angry reactions should the jury not give it the Palme d’Or. Read our review.

Grand Prix

Fred: Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismäki

The Finnish filmmaker conquered the festival with Fallen Leaves, and delivered the best moments of humour and love of 2023’s vintage. It's the stuff of his universe: offbeat, lonely characters - in this case, an alcoholic factory worker, a cashier and an adopted dog (named Chaplin, of course), a capitalist system that has no regard for the well-being of individuals, but, above all, the love that can overcome these things. A filmmaker of class struggle, anti-imperialism and happiness for all, Kaurismäki does not forget - as seen from his Finnish border with Russia - the invasion of Ukraine that crackles on the radio throughout the film. From the little human miseries to the great tragedies of war, the great humanist forgets no one, least of all his viewers, who leave the cinema with a warm feeling in their hearts...

David: Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismäki

Considered the runner-up prize, the Grand Prix this year should go to Aki Kaurismäki for Fallen Leaves. And once again, Fred and I are in complete agreement. For his fourth chapter to his ‘working class trilogy’ (following Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl), the Finnish maestro of all things deadpan has fashioned a romance that reminds us that connections are precious and that warm comfort is possible in a world that often seems too cold. It’s the only film this year which received thunderous applause even before the screen had turned to black and the end credits started rolling. It would stand as the warmer yin to The Zone of Interest 's darker yang. Fallen Leaves may not be anything out of the ordinary for those familiar with Kaurismäki’s work, but there’s little doubt in my mind that there’ll be consensus for the jury when it comes to this one. It can’t go home empty-handed after the smiles you could see from everyone exiting the Palais. Read our review.

Prix du Jury (Jury Prize)

Fred: Youth, Wang Bing

A documentary lasting over 3 hours and a half may be a turn-off for some, but this film by the Chinese director will leave an indelible mark. By delving into the daily lives of exploited young people who come to work in a dormitory town dedicated entirely to textiles, Wang Bing paints a portrait of an exploited, disillusioned generation who are robbed of their youth, even if they often show the joy of despair. In any case, this film won't make you buy a piece of clothing in the same way; you'll at least look at the label because you'll see how quickly the workers have to sew it for a pittance. Filmed clandestinely, Youth is an inherently political film, and Wang Bing a resistance fighter, a witness to reality in its raw state.

David: La Chimera, Alice Rohrwacher

The second runner-up prize is a tougher one to predict, and I get the feeling it’s going to go to one of two films that don’t necessarily deserve it. I didn’t have the best time with Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera, but there’s undeniable potency to its dreamlike story of a tomb raider whose quest for artefacts is inextricably linked with the catharsis he yearns for regarding his lost love. It’s more mood-board than it is a satisfyingly rounded film, but the ending is genuinely brilliant and Rohrwacher is a Cannes darling (The Wonders, Happy as Lazzaro), so La Chimera could be in for a prize this year. It’s either that or Jessica Hausner’s dark comedy Club Zero, whose ironic flourishes and bizarre tone will probably resonate with Östlund. It didn’t go far enough for me, and Hausner didn’t have all that much to say about fanaticism and extremism in all its forms. In an ideal world, Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days would get it, but if push comes to shove, my money’s on La Chimera.

Prix de la mise en scene (Best Director)

Fred: Kaouther Ben Hania, Four Daughters

This could be my Palme d'Or, but it's certainly my Coup de Coeur. An Objet Filmique Non (encore) Identifié that mixes fiction and reality, the written word and improvisation, using a complex set-up that blends actors and real characters. Kaouther Ben Hania tells the story of Olfa, a mother who saw two of her daughters join the Islamic State after the Jasmine Revolution that toppled Tunisian President Ben Ali in 2011. You get the impression that the film is being made in front of your eyes, and indeed, thanks to the setting created by the filmmaker, the protagonists' words are set free, women alone, who give themselves up to the gaze of another woman, to touch on the intimate as well as the universal.

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David: Kaouther Ben Hania, Four Daughters

What Fred said. Four Daughters is a stunning piece of work and since it’s Cannes policy to not award any other prizes to the film which wins the Palme d’Or – otherwise Jonathan Glazer could have been my pick – Kaouther Ben Hania would be a great choice for Best Director this year. That final shot about the possibility of breaking the generational chains of indoctrination has stayed with me all festival. Watch our interview with Kaouther Ben Hania. 

Prix d’interprétation feminine (Best Actress)

Fred: Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall

How could Sandra Hüller not win this year's Best Actress award? Whether in _The Zone of Interest_or in Justine Triet's drama, she is constantly at the centre of the film. In Anatomy of a Fall, she is the gateway to the life of a couple who are about to be dissected during their trial. Like an onion, she reveals several layers as her character develops. Without emphasis, her performance rings true, without a false note, and she matches the French director's complex story. The German actress, who speaks English in most of the film, gives real depth and complexity to her role as a woman who is both powerful and powerless.

David: Léa Drucker, Last Summer

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This category could go a lot of ways. Both Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore were excellent in the DePalma-esque May December; Mia Wasikowska was chilling in the very divisive Club Zero; and the safe money is on Sandra Hüller, who starred in both Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest. Considering she missed out on getting the prize for Toni Erdmann and how brilliant she is in both Triet and Glazer’s films, the odds are this is her year. However, my money’s on Léa Drucker in Catherine Breillat’s Last Summer. She is note-perfect as the successful lawyer who succumbs to her Vertigo theory and risks it all by embarking on an illicit affair with her husband’s troubled 17-year-old son from a previous marriage. She convincingly oscillates between the character’s multitudes without falling into parody or easily defined villain / victim binaries. Hüller will get it, but Drucker is definitely in with a shot. Read our review.

Prix d’interprétation masculine (Best Actor)

Fred: Koji Yakusho, Perfect Days

He doesn't speak more than half a dozen sentences in the film, and yet he manages to convey all the emotions of his character, who is far from conventional: a Tokyo toilet cleaner who turns out over the course of Wim Wenders' film to be a man rich in literature, close to nature, full of wisdom and a lover of freedom. Koji Yakusho, a long-established actor in Japan, reveals a whole range of expressions and feelings behind his impassive façade. We empathise with him throughout the film, and he makes us deeply love and respect his character. It's a pleasure to go with him to the beautiful Japanese public toilets, to the dance halls, to the public baths, to his humble home and, of course, to his van full of a thousand cassette tapes...

David: Koji Yakusho, Perfect Days

There weren’t many obvious choices for this one this year... until Koji Yakusho showed up for Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days. The entire film about an aging toilet cleaner in Tokyo rests on his shoulders, and what he does with only a handful of lines is a masterclass in subtlety. It’s a film that breaks your heart, puts it back together again, and soundtracks the whole beautiful and poignant character study to Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Nina Simone. I cried like a lost child to this one and Perfect Days is without a doubt one of my late highlights of this festival. The Best Actor may yet go to Jude Law for his turn as the paranoid Henry VIII in Firebrand – an obvious choice to award a familiar name – but if Yakusho doesn’t get it, I’ll riot.

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Prix du scénario (Best Screenplay)

Fred: Monster, Hirokazu Kore-eda

The Japanese master, who recently won the Palme d'Or for Shoplifters, could be rewarded for this film that blurs the lines and perceptions of reality around the theme of school bullying. But appearances are deceptive, and Kore-eda's script shows the same event seen through the eyes of different characters. Over the course of the script, the spectator discovers different perspectives on the story, radically changing his or her point of view. Without being revolutionary, the principle is devilishly effective in putting us into the heads of the characters, especially that of the children’s, whose imaginations are often difficult to represent on screen. And here, child monsters can easily be transformed into freedom-loving adventurers...

David: Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet

Like my esteemed colleague, I loved Monster but fear it’ll go home without an award this year. That’s how strong the Competition has been. I’m giving Best Screenplay to Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall. The film was incredibly well received on the Croisette and consensus seems to be that it will be rewarded for Sandra Hüller’s performance. However, what struck me the most about Triet’s film, which sees a writer forced to defend herself in court when she becomes the main suspect in her husband’s ‘murder’, was how the movie manages to tick a lot of conventional courtroom drama tropes and keep it engaging. The flashbacks featuring arguments between the couple are particular standouts, as they ring true and never fall into easy histrionics. On the whole, Anatomy of a Fall has both ambiguity and emotional payoff – it’s confident storytelling that is at once accessible and knotty. It won’t go home empty-handed, whichever category it ends up nabbing. 

Stay tuned to Euronews Culture for the full results later tonight.

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