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Breaking The Waves (1996)

Break it down!
What a poster!

Genre: Drama Romance (Denmark, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Norway, Iceland)

Starring: Emily Watson (The Proposition; Punch-Drunk Love), Stellan Skarsgård (Beowulf and Grendel; Exorcist: The Beginning)

Directed By: Lars Von Trier (Manderlay; The Five Obstructions)

Overview: A woman with a personal relationship with God is blessed with the gift of love, though, as it is given, her selfishness might lead to many a thing taken away.


Emily Watson's name is one that might be considered household enough, yet it may shock you to find that this was the first film she ever starred in.  Having spent four years in theater, this first screen role of hers got her nominated for an Oscar. Not a bad beginning indeed.  I'd bet Helena Bonham Carter was kicking herself for declining this role.  As for Stellan, I've been a fan of his for a while too. Together, and with the script's potential for greatness, it's no wonder this became the film that made Lars 'Lars'.   
Rating: 9


Breaking The Waves stays in the naturalistic, though dramatic shots on the oil rig and dynamic camera work in that small town church frame the storytelling quite nicely.  The added touch in the introductions to each chapter, where we are graced with almost impressionistic scenes, is simply gorgeous. I'm not exactly sure how they made those moments so vivid and rich in colour (if you know the exact process, please enlighten me), but it looks like each of those frames were touched up by hand.
Rating: 8


Amidst the everyday, Breaking The Waves includes lines spoken unto Beth by the Lord... or do we? The most potent of the themes in this film are those of Madness versus Sainthood.  A cursory search of the plot elements online reveal the ambiguity of whether she is really talking to God or if the voices are just in her head. Many a religious discourse is pontificated however, and whether or not Beth is mad doesn't make what is asked any less relevant.
Rating: 8


Beth is a simple sort of girl, selfish though she is in the desire to be with her husband all the time.  Jan is in love, no doubt about that, but Beth's need is so complete that she prays to God for his early return from the oil rig where he works. As is befitting, Jan gets hurt, badly.  'Careful what you pray for' is certainly the theme of the first act. From there we follow Beth as she tries to rectify her prayers with sacrificial atonement, as requested by Jan and approved by God. An interesting twist of faith. 
Rating: 8


Breaking The Waves, though 'awkward' in the way it makes you feel, is cinema (read 'storytelling art') .  It's a tale with lessons, while still having elements of the fantastical. Any fan of Lars von Trier will agree that this is very much his kind of film.  It exaggerates to make its point, yet stays firmly rooted in the human condition. Add a small, strict, ultra-conservative town where a woman who speaks to God isn't allowed to speak in church, and you compound the personal tale with lessons in hypocrisy. Nice touch. 
Rating: 8

Love means never having to say "er sorry I got you paralyzed"
Love means never having to say "sorry I got you paralyzed"

Overall Rating: 82% (Dive In)

As 'film' goes, many will tell you this is more than relevant as a repertoire piece (including me, and 1001 Movies). Regardless of the fact that Lars is one of my favourite directors, this is the kind of story that looks at people first and ideas and metaphors second. In short, Breaking The Waves is important, because the ideas are as deep and meaningful as any you'd find in classic literature.

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Buddy, I'm so glad you have discovered this film (One of the 3 or 4 best of the 90's , IMHO) 

I think Emily Watson gives perhaps the greatest performance I've ever seen here. It's a brave performance  - Immensely so. It skates soooo close to being a joke, but she pulls it off.

 And the central theme of the film - What faith really means and what we are willing to do in it's name is an area that the movies seldom go into.  Check that - it's an area that the movies NEVER go into. 

It's a brilliant, moving film.  I'm gonna go and watch it again!!!!


Oh, yeah....Nice Poster.





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