MADRID - Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke on Thursday won one of Spain’s highest honours, the Prince of Asturias prize for arts, with the panel hailing him as one of leading figures in European contemporary cinema.

The 71-year-old Oscar winner edged out 32 other contenders to take the 50,000-euro ($65,000) award, one of eight given in different fields by the Asturias Foundation each year. The prize jury praised Haneke for “his relentless, personal exposure of reality”.

“His penetrating, radical gaze on society has allowed him to explore uncharted terrain to become one of the leading auteurs of contemporary European cinema,” it said in a statement.

Haneke’s latest film “Amour”, about a couple trying to come to terms with sickness and old age, won the Oscar for best foreign movie in February after winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

The movie stars two French film legends, Emmanuelle Riva, 85, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, who is 81.

They play a loving, elderly Parisian couple. When Anne, played by Riva, has a stroke, her husband is left to care for her.

Haneke achieved international fame in 1997 with “Funny Games”, a psychological thriller about two young men who hold a family hostage and torture them with sadistic games.

“When I make a movie, I want people to feel emotions and if I achieve this I am happy,” he told reporters in Madrid in February during the presentation of another project, his staging of Mozart opera “Cosi Fan Tutte”. Cuban choreographer Carlos Acosta Quesada, Serbian artist Marina Abramovic, Estonian composer Arvo Part and US painter Bruce Nauman were among the other contenders for the award.

The prize is awarded each year to a person, group or institution whose work in cinema, dance, music or other forms of art “constitute a significant contribution to mankind’s cultural heritage”.

Last year it went to Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Other previous winners include Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, Grammy-winning US singer Bob Dylan and British architect Norman Foster. The Prince of Asturias awards are also given in the fields of communication and humanities, scientific and technical research, social science, letters, international cooperation, international understanding and sport.