Japanese actress Haru Kuroki’s performance in the film The Little House earned her the Silver Bear for Best Actress award at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.

Kuroki plays a housemaid in the film directed by veteran Yoji Yamada as she watches a secret love affair bloom in a Tokyo household with World War II looming in the background. The movie follows Kuroki’s character during the war.

Looking resplendent in kimono, Kuroki received her award and expressed her gratitude to Yamada.

“I never imagined I could stand on this stage,” the 23-year-old actress said in Japanese. “I should’ve learned German.”

“I owe the honor to director Yamada,” Kuroki said. She thanked Yamada for giving her the opportunity to win the top actress award.

Kuroki is the fourth Japanese to win the prize for best actress after Shinobu Terajima in 2010, Kinuyo Tanaka in 1975 and Sachiko Hidari in 1964. She has won awards in Japan for her performances in The Great Passage and other films last year.

The Little House, adapted from the award-winning novel of the same title by Kyoko Nakajima, is the 82nd movie directed by Yamada, best known for his It’s Tough Being a Man comedy series.

It was Yamada’s fifth entry in the competition division of the Berlin International Film Festival and his first in six years.

The Golden Bear for Best Film went to Chinese thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Yan Huo) directed by Diao Yinan. Liao Fan, who played the lead role in the same film was named best actor.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image of Kuroki, right, and Takako Matsu in The Little House: Berlinale.de