Michael Haneke with Emmanuelle Riva (left) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (right) on stage in Cannes tonight accepting the Palme d'Or for best picture. 

Michael Haneke won the Palme d'Or for Amour tonight in France as the 65th Cannes Film Festival came to a close.

The top prizes at this year's 65th Cannes Film Festival were spread among a small cadre of international auteurs who have all won big awards at this festival in recent years. Atop the list the prize for best picture was a major achievement for Haneke. He also won the award just three years ago for his 2009 Cannes competition entry, The White Ribbon.

Love tested by the passage of time is at the center of Amour. Austrian director Michael Haneke's new film tracks the impact that a debilitating illness has on a loving Parisian couple (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva). With brutal details, Haneke exposes the physical and emotional outcome of the blunt punch to a seemingly impermeable relationship. The film already has distribution in the United States where it will be releaed by Sony Pictures Classics. Except to see it on the North American festival circuit this fall. 

Runner-up for the evening was a bit of a surprise, namely Reality, directed by Italian Matteo Garrone. He won the same runner-up Grand Prize in 2008 for his acclaimed film, Gomorrah.

The announcement of the award for Reality drew applause inside the Lumiere Theater as the director took the stage, but in the packed adjacent DeBussy Theater where press and industry had gathered, the prize sparked catcalls and a few boos. The film, which screened early on in the festival, has divided attendees all week. 

Notably Aniello Arena, the star of Reality, is a convicted murderer currently serving time in prison. He was released from jail daily to work on the film in Italy, but authorities wouldn't let him travel to France for the festival. In the film, Arena plays Luciano, a Naples fishmonger who imagines an escape from his own life as a star of the Italian reality TV show Grande Fratello (Big Brother). Read more about the film in a recent FilmLinc.com Diary from Cannes. 

Romanian Christian Mungiu, winner of the Palme d'Or in 2007 for Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days, tonight won the award for best screenplay this year for his new film, Beyond The Hills. His lead actors Christina Flutir & Cosmina Stratan shared the prize for best actress.

“I don't think that we can fix the past with our films,” explained Mungiu, whose film is based on a true story, “But hopefully we can make the future a little bit better. This is what I hope with my films.”

British director Ken Loach, winner of the Palme d'Or in 2006 for The Wind The Shakes The Barley, won the Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival for The Angels' Share, the second runner-up award.

“Cannes shows us that cinema is not just a diversion, but it shows us who we are and how we live together,” Loach said on stage tonight at the festival, “I would like us to send our solidarity to those who resist austerity, privatization and cuts.”

The other former Cannes winner who also won tonight was Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas. He won the best director award for Post Tenebras Lux. His Silent Light won the Jury Prize at this festival in 2007.

The newcomer prize, the Camera d'Or, was reliably the one award sure to go to a debut director.

“You've changed many good people's lives,” said filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, accepting the Camera d'Or for best first feature tonight for Beasts of the Southern Wild. His acclaimed debut was a recent hit at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize and at New Directors/New Films in New York.

“This wasn't just my first film it was the first film of almost everyone who worked on it,” Zeitlin said, “Its like an award for courage and faith as much as skill.”

Concluding his remarks Zeitlin praised the festival itself.

“Its the temple,” Zeitlin said, “Cannes is the temple.”

Full list of winners

Palme d'Or: Amour, directed by Michael Haneke

Best Director: Carlos Reygadas for Post Tenebras Lux

Grand Prix: Reality, directed by Matteo Garrone

Best Screenplay: Beyond The Hills, written by Christian Mungiu

Camera d'Or for Best First Feature: Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin

Jury prize: The Angels' Share, directed by Ken Loach

Best Actress: Christina Flutir & Cosmina Stratan for Beyond The Hills

Best Actor: Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt (Jagten), directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Palme d'Or for Short Film: Silence (Sessis-Be Deng), directed by L. Rezan Yesilbas

Prix Un Certain Regard: — After Lucia (Despues de Lucia), directed by Michel Franco

Directors’ Fortnight Prize: No, directed by Pablo Larrain

International Critics’ Week Prize: Aqui y Alla, directed by Antonio Mendez Esparza 

Eugene Hernandez is the Director of Digital Strategy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (@filmlinc) and a founder of indieWIRE. Follow him on Twitter at @eug.

Get the latest daily FilmLinc coverage from Cannes in our special section.