Purportedly based on the Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, The Master centers on a an unsettled WII veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who is manipulated by a cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Another film dealing with a religious theme, Paradise: Faith, from Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s, won the special jury prize. The film, a dark comedy about a self-flagellating Roman Catholic woman married to a paraplegic Muslim, made headlines in Italy when a Catholic organization accused the filmmakers of blasphemy for showing a woman masturbating with a crucifix.
The best actress award went to Hadas Yaron, who plays a Hasidic teenager struggling with a difficult decision in the in yet another religion-theme drama from Israel, Fill the Void.
This year’s Venice Film Festival jury was headed by filmmaker Michael Mann, and included actress Samantha Morton, filmmakers Matteo Garrone and Pablo Trapero and the artist Marina Abramovic.