ROME – Jurors at the Venice Film Festival loved "The Master," a film inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but strict rules kept them from giving it the top Golden Lion prize along with the other awards it garnered.
Venice rules for the annual festival in the Italian lagoon city say the film that receives the Golden Lion cannot get any other awards.
The jury announced Saturday night it was giving "The Master" the Silver Lion for best director (Paul Thomas Anderson), and that its stars Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman would share the prize for best actor.
The Golden Lion instead went to "Pieta," a South Korean film about a brutal debt collector.
British juror Samantha Morton said the panel had a tough time with the decision.
Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported Sunday that the jury wrestled with its decision "for hours and hours" over which film met the Golden Lion criteria for merit, excellence, ability to stir emotions, the director's artistic ambitions and esthetic value.
"All those qualities are wrapped up in one work, 'The Master,' which would have won the Golden Lion if it weren't for the Venice rule," Corriere wrote, saying the jurors concluded that "the only way" to shower several prizes on "The Master" was to give the Golden Lion to the South Korean movie.
Still, reporters pressed jurors after the award ceremony on why the Golden Lion eluded "The Master."
"It's very hard for the jury," Morton said. " ''If you give the Golden Lion to something, you cannot give it another award at all. You can't give it (best) actor, you can't give it (the) cinematography (award)."
She added that sometimes a film might "miss out on the Golden Lion so that you can give it multiple awards."
The head of the jury, American director Michael Mann, put it this way: Even "if it's 'Gone With The Wind' it's only going to get one (top) award."
Actor Hoffman told reporters that he and Phoenix, the director, were "excited" about the awards snared by "The Master."
Commenting on the unusual dual award for best actor, Hoffman said that choice reflected the "heavily invested and needy relationship" between the two characters in the film. "We thought it was really, really smart and gracious and intuitive to give the award in this way."