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Actor Michael Fassbender got a best actor trophy for his portryal as a sex-obsessed man in 'Shame' at the 68th Venice Film Festival. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty)

Russian director Aleksander Sokurov's Faust, a new take on the German legend about the quest for knowledge at all cost, won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.

Dense and difficult to watch, Faust was nevertheless one of the critics' top choices among the 23 in-competition films at Venice this year. It snapped up the top prize by the jury headed by Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky.

Faust tells the tale of a professor, played by Johannes Zeiler, who craves knowledge and sells his soul for the love of Margarete, played by Isolda Dychauk. The Mephistopheles character is played by Anton Adasinskiy.

The Russian film beat out 23 other films at Venice this year.

Sokurov's film marks the final chapter in his four-film look at the relationship between man and power that began with Moloch in 1999 about Hitler, Taurus a year later about Lenin and the 2005 film The Sun about Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

Venice's best actor award went to Michael Fassbender for his portrayal as a sex addict in Steve McQueen's Shame, while the best actress award went to Deanie Yip, who plays an aging domestic servant opposite her master in Hong Kong director Ann Hui's A Simple Life

"I can't believe how young and beautiful and sexy this woman is!" Aronofsky gushed of Yip at a post-award news conference. He said the jury, which included David Byrne and Andre Techine, was moved by the message of Hui's film.

"It's an issue we deal with in every part of the world and...to see a journey from health to death with such generosity was very touching," he said of A Simple Life.

Fassbender said he never had a doubt about taking on the graphic role of Brandon, a 30-something Manhattanite obsessed with sex. He said he had full faith in McQueen after taking part in his 2008 film Hunger, which won the new director's prize in Cannes.

"He mentioned this to me in 2008 but I didn't need a script," Fassbender said after picking up his award. "I was always going to jump on board with Steve. He always addresses the elephant in the room, and it was a matter of me not letting him down.

The Silver Lion prize for best director went to this year's surprise entry at the Lido, Beijing-based Shangjun Cai for People Mountain People Sea. And the special jury prize went to the Italian-French production Terraferma, about the influx of migrants to a tiny Italian island, by Emanuele Crialese.