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Breaking the Waves

Breaking the Waves

Language: Greek

Author: boy30

Updated: 3 years ago

Files: 1

Year: 1996
Run time: 159min
IMDB score: 7.9

Movie infomation

Movie name: Breaking the Waves

Genders: Romance, Drama

Imdb Score: 7.9

Runtime: 159min

Released: 13 Nov 1996

Director: Lars von Trier

Writer: Lars von Trier, Peter Asmussen

Actors: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr

Company: Artisan Entertainment

Imdb Link

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We do not need bells in our church to worship God.

5/10 This is the story about love. Everyday we experience this breathtaking emotion with both inanimate objects and with other souls. It is when we finally find true love that nothing else in the world seems worthy or good. We work as hard as we can to continue this warmth that we feel in our hearts when true love exists, and sometimes that means going to a level we never thought imaginable.

That is the central theme of Lars von Trier's epic, Breaking the Waves. Love has no boundaries as we watch Bess do everything possible (and more) to keep the relationship with her husband together during the roughest of times. Emily Watson controls the character Bess giving her best performance ever. The emotion and serenity that is felt, not only behind the character of Bess, but also behind Watson's eyes is phenomenal. It is not often that Hollywood is able to capture this sort of raw emotion, but Watson pulled it off with incredible talent.

Outside of Watson's character, there is the story. Lars von Trier does a spectacular job of continually building on the foundation that he has begun.

Watson is his foundation, and Trier builds this amazing world around her. In this film, everything from talking to God to reverberating stories to her husband while he is in the hospital only helps build the story to even higher heights. I will be honest; I shed tears at the end of this film. It will pull at every heart muscle that you have and really make you look at your significant other and truly feel the power of love.

This is a love story, but not like one we have seen in a very long time. I don't think we will see anything similar to this again. It will be hard for Hollywood to emulate such raw talent, groundbreaking direction, and life-changing story.

Thank you Lars von Trier for your imagination and passion for love.

Grade: ***** out of *****

3 years ago


5/10 Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves is the kind of film that makes me proud to be a film-goer and exceeds anything I could have possibly expected from the man who made Element of Crime. That film had some clever experimentation (and so does this one) but this film is the kind that's beauty and power echoes in your mind hours after you've watched it. This is a flabbergasting work of art that portrays a woman's quest to please God and does so with the complexity and emotional power of a Bergman film (not to mention the fact that the film portrays a woman's intense suffering in world sternly ruled by men with the power of a Dreyer film). If von Trier made nothing else of any merit for the rest of his career, if all he did was make marginally interesting film experiments, I wouldn't hesitate to call him a great filmmaker on the soul basis of this film. Anyway, you get the picture The film stars Emily Watson as Bess, a shy and neurotic girl who is filled with joy to be with her new husband Jan (Stellan Skarsgard who is exceptional). When Jan is paralyzed after an accident at the oilrig he works in, he is in danger of losing his life. He convinces Bess to see other people and Bess wants nothing more than to make him happy and to prove to God that she loves him. After some disastrous complications, Bess is led to believe that she can please God and save Jan's life by having numerous sexual encounters with strangers in town. This sounds like a grungy tale, but von Trier tells it with such humanism and focus on his themes that we never feel like he is rubbing our faces in drear. And Watson is delightful, frightening, and heartbreaking as a woman who will stop at nothing to please those around her. Her one-sided conversations with God (in which she looks up in the air submissively and pleas and then looks down with a deep voice of wrath and scolds) are both funny and sad, not to mention the fact that they reveal seemingly endless amounts of details about who she is. The film is made with a hand-held camera and a visually stunning solarized style. This style does not make the movie; it just adds richness to each scene in the way it gives each face such shadowy texture. In the end, von Trier seems to believe in God but does not believe in the churches that try to codify what he wants. All of this works because of von Trier's passionate desire to understand how one can please God under horrendous terms; the epilogue, that takes the already-great material to a new level and shows how inspired von Trier is, starts with a moment of sad irony and then leaps to the skies with an image that fills the most atheistic person with questions and the more religiously spiritual people with hope. Here is a film that reaches for the stars and makes it there.

3 years ago

Incredible and Powerful Film

10/10 Initially, this story about the marriage of young Scottish woman and a Scandinavian oil rig worker had my eyes glazing over. I was ready to hit the eject button about 20 minutes into the movie. But I held in there and slowly was drawn in to their lives, their environment, and the ghastly tragedy that confronts them.

Lars von Trier is a very patient storyteller, as well as being an eccentric movie maker. In Breaking the Waves, he slowly, very slowly unfolds his drama. The problem is; you have to pay careful attention, and this can be difficult. Von Trier's style, with its hand-held camera, lack of artificial lighting, grainy photography, and lingering close-ups can try the patience. The movie is also long, clocking in at about 2½ hours. But if you see it through, the final half hour will blow your mind, and you will have seen one of the best (and most emotionally powerful) movies of 1996, maybe even the whole decade.

3 years ago

A powerful, original vision. One of the greatest movies of the last ten years.

5/10 It's a pity that for most people Lars von Trier's involvement with the Dogme group of film makers is the main thing they know about him. Wherever you stand on the Dogme issue (personally I'm all for it as long as they continue to make movies as great as 'Festen' and 'The Idiots'), his brief alliance with the group has overshadowed amazing work like 'Element Of Crime', 'Europa' and 'Breaking The Waves'. 'Breaking The Waves' was made before the Dogme manifesto was formulated, but it can be seen as a step in that direction, with its use of documentary techniques as opposed to the flamboyant and highly stylized approach of von Trier's earlier films. To me the ends justifies the means, and the bottom line is that this is an extraordinary and powerful movie, one of the greatest of the last ten years. The main reason it is so remarkable is because of the devastating performance of Emily Watson, one of the most impressive screen debuts in the history of film. Watson plays Bess McNeill, a naive and odd young woman living in a remote and deeply religious Scottish community. She is so good in this movie she'll leave you speechless! Stellan Skarsgard, a most underrated actor in my opinion,('Insomnia', 'Ronin') plays Bess's husband and is also superb, and the supporting cast includes the late Katrin Cartlidge ('Naked') as Watson's sister-in-law, and von Trier regulars Jean-Marc Barr (almost unrecognizable from his leading role in 'Europa'), as one of Skarsgard's work buddies, and cult legend Udo Kier ('Flesh For Frankenstein', 'The Story Of O') in a cameo as a very nasty piece of work who Bess has the misfortune to encounter. The less you know about this movie the more powerful it will be, and even a jaded cynic like myself was surprised at how effective its spiritual theme was. To me 'Breaking The Waves' is a much better more than von Trier's better known 'Dancer In The Dark', and Watson's performance makes Bjork's look like that of an enthusiastic but not very talented amateur (which of course, is exactly what she is). Highly recommended.

3 years ago

Second Time Viewing-Still Powerful, Disturbing, Rich

10/10 Director and writer Lars von Trier's 1996 "Breaking the Waves" received much attention worldwide when initially released. Commentary reflected the high degree of polarization this long, engrossing and deeply disturbing Indie film created. I saw it when it first briefly hit Manhattan theaters and last night I watched the DVD release, reabsorbed in its intricacies.

Emily Watson's portrayal as young Bess McNeill is the most powerful performance of a career still in the ascendancy. Bess lives in a small Scottish village by the sea, away from any center of culture or heterogeneity. She has no job and she appears to volunteer her services as a janitor at the church which her family attends. It is the dominating religious, social and - I suspect - political entity in the area.

Bess has one friend, a woman who becomes increasingly important both to her and the story, nurse Dodo McNeill, widowed wife of Bess's brother. (Katrin Cartlidge, a truly gifted and beautiful actress, is Dodo. A tragedy, she died in 2002 of pneumonia barely into her forties.)

The movie begins with Bess asking, apparently, for permission to marry an "outsider." She receives, in church, grudging authorization to wed Jan, a worker on an off-shore oil rig (the always interesting Stellan Skarsgard). We're never told how she met him but the church scene immediately and succinctly conveys the fear and, indeed, near loathing the male religious oligarchs have of anyone entering their closed and tightly controlled community.

Jan and Bess wed in a ceremony followed by a party where some of Jan's hard drinking work pals attend but hardly mingle with the lemonade-sipping locals (there's a very funny chug-a-lug competition that highlights the dividing lines neatly).

Bess is not only a virgin, she's never seen a naked man before. Her initiation into sex is rather a success and her love for Jan deepens as rapidly as her new found lust for vigorous and frequent love-making.

Jan suffers a near fatal accident on the rig and is flown back to hospital. It doesn't take long for the doctors to determine he's permanently paralyzed from the neck down. Dr. Richardson (Adrian Rawlins) becomes chief physician not only to Jan but to his disconsolate wife who prays for a miraculous recovery while remaining devoted to her husband.

What happens next is the plot twist that has fascinated many and repelled quite a few. Jan, knowing that physical intimacy with Bess is impossible, asks her - no, really implores her - to take on any number of lovers AND report back the details of her trysts. After a hesitant and almost funny start, she complies. As her sex life accelerates any humor evaporates.

The results of the ongoing experiment in vicarious lovemaking for Jan and for Bess, sinking way beyond her depth, are disastrous. She slowly elides into a twisted caricature of the personality envisioned by Jan. Communal rejection is not far off. And this in a community where membership in the church is the sole indicium of civic and personal legitimacy.

Some critics and viewers described Bess as retarded or simple from the beginning. I found her to be naive and inexperienced, the kind of sheltered person for whom marriage to a man of broad experience and unfettered sexuality is boundlessly liberating. Bess's inevitable penance does not stem from any interior failing of her's. It's the "game" urged on by Jan that exposes her to the venomous wrath of religious fundamentalists whose innate need to condemn and consign to hell (literally and volubly) is beyond Jan's imagination. Whether his desire that she engage in sexual escapades really reflected his belief that it would make him feel better or whether this was an evolving pathological caprice on his part (and both views have strong adherents here on IMDb and elsewhere), he did not foresee the resulting debacle.

On several levels von Trier has mirrored, through powerful acting and awesome direction, that small, closed society whose fundamentalist interiority is a microcosm of the hatred that blind, non-humanistic religion often brings (it's easy to see the stern, unsmiling, dogma-obsessed church leader as a modern incarnation of the sixteenth century's John Knox of Edinburgh).

Von Trier won't let Bess escape as her situation worsens. Dr. Richardson and Dodo first ask and then beg her to abandon her self-destructive and now publicly shocking behavior. There is a sense of classical tragedy in the painful unfolding of Bess's mental and physical deterioration. She can't curtail her conduct because of her absolute devotion to Jan and her community can't and won't understand or forgive her.

The resolution is wrenching but also uplifting with the suggestion that Bess's acts reflect good in a pristine sense. It's not meant to be realistic but to deliver, I felt, a needed moral lesson.

"Breaking the Waves" isn't for everyone. It does showcase brilliant acting and direction in a fable that has some very uncompromising arguments about a
religious dominance which only concerns itself with a believed afterlife, caring nothing about addressing the pains of living and administering to its sufferers compassionately.


3 years ago