Set in an unmercifully rugged, coastal village in Scotland in the 1970s, this extraordinary film by Lars von Trier stars British actress Emily Watson as a barely contained naive named Bess, who holds regular conversations ... more »with God and whose pure and intensely personal faith is hardly tolerated by the gruesome Calvinist elders of her church. Bess marries an oil-rig worker (Stellan Skarsgard) and comes to believe that erotic discovery is a part of God's grand plan. But after her spouse is hurt in an accident, she decides that divine instruction is leading her toward the life of a prostitute--with disastrous but somehow beautiful results. Von Trier (The Kingdom) has made a wonderful, entirely unexpected, and rigorous work of discovery in this film, with a formal visual design that recalls classic films by Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson. Watson is a phenomenon, her wide-eyed wonder at the world as God's handiwork a breathtaking portrayal of conviction. --Tom Keogh« less
Von Tier's relentless tragedy about faith, loss, and love...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 04/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bess McNeil (Emily Watson) is a naive woman who was brought up in an oppressive environment with patriarchal Christian believes where Christian rules are worshipped above all else. Nonetheless, Bess gets the Church elders approval, after some hesitation, to marry an outsider. This outsider is Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgård), an oil rig worker on the North Sea. Bess and Jan are so much in love that Bess declares her love for Jan in the bathroom of their reception by saying "You can love me now!", which leads to Bess loosing her virginity. This is the beginning of her sexual transformation as her love expands for Jan and in appreciation she thanks God for the gift of love that he has given her. However, the honeymoon must come to an end as Jan must return to the oil rig to earn a living. On the oil rig Jan is seriously injured in an accident, which leads the audience into a relentlessly tragic story about faith, loss, and love.Breaking the Waves is broken up in different chapters and in between the chapters von Tier uses scenic shots that are artistically enhanced. These shots cue the audience on the upcoming chapter as it deals with different issues around Bess and Jan's relationship. The film is shot in a Dogma 95 style that von Tier introduced to the public in 1995, which adds to the realism of the story. In addition, the cast performs brilliantly as they help paint the true vision of Lars von Tier in a brilliant cinematic experience that some will love and some will hate as the story forces the audience to choose a side."
We do not need bells in our church to worship God.
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 09/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 *****"
An incredible, deeply moving experience
Kim Anehall | 02/12/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Breaking the Waves" is one of the best films I've ever seen -- I have added it to my list of top ten best films ever (right up there with "Citizen Kane" and "The Piano"). It is not for the faint of heart, however, nor is it recommended for those who like their movie endings tied up neatly. The film has stayed with me and continues to raise questions about the nature of faith, the power of religion and community, and the meaning of love. Emily Watson's performance was pure and sincere -- she should have won an Oscar. The breaks between "chapters" filled with great music and breathtaking scenery were an inspired device to give the viewer a necessary breather, a moment to allow the previous scenes to sink in. This movie will stay with me for a very long time. If you liked "The Piano" or "The Rapture," then I strongly recommend "Breaking the Waves.""
Kerr | Toronto, Canada | 10/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" is a unique film in both its style and its story. Von Trier has been accused of making films simply to showcase his eccentric directorial techniques. I strongly disagree. He certainly is unconventional but the audience can almost always feel that he strongly cares about his characters and the story he's trying to tell.The film is shot as a documentary, but Von Trier makes that work very well. The film tells the story of Bess whose love has no limits and knows no boundries. Her decisions are always influenced by her own definition of her own faith. Emily Watson is extraordinary in the scenes where she talks to God. Her performance is truly one of the greatest I've seen in a while. Her eyes seem to light up whenever she's happy and dim down whenever she's sad. Stellan Skarsgard as Jan and Katrin Cartlidge as Dodo also give fine performances.We are confronted by many philosophical questions throughout the film. Questions like: can our beliefs be so strong that they give us the power to triumph over anything and everything? I don't think that many of us know the answer to that but Bess sure does.I think the film is a must see. Challenging films are such a rare experience nowadays."
EriKa | Iceland | 03/26/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lars von Trier is not known for conventional films. If anything his films court controversy and push the envelope on what is acceptable and appropriate in films. Some of his Danish works, which are less well known, like a strange film called Idioterne, are positively shocking. Breaking the Waves is more mainstream but by no means conventional. The story tells of a naïve and mentally unstable young woman named Bess MacNeil (played startlingly by Emily Watson). She has been reared in a very conservative and religious community (women are not allowed to speak in the church, people are judged harshly by the church, and they can easily be shunned for their activities. Outsiders are not easily welcomed into this community). Bess marries an oil rig worker named Jan (an excellent Stellan Skarsgard. He is an outsider to the community and is not easily accepted. The beginning of the film tells the tale of their marriage, Bess's exploration of sexuality with her new husband, Bess's childlike innocence and mental instability... and how she copes (or does not cope) with Jan's frequent absences. Eventually Jan succumbs to an accident on the oil rig and has to return home. He is hospitalised and is paralysed, and it is thought that he will be paralysed for life. He cannot bear to see his wife especially knowing that he cannot perform his husbandly duties, so he convinces her to go out and experiment sexually with as many men as she can. He convinces her that this helps him when really he is trying to do it for her. Not to add that he is doped up on pain medication. Soon the town learns of her activities and she is shunned from the society. The end is heartbreaking and the ironic twist at the end is painful. Lars von Trier cannot be faulted for his creative vision, despite what you make think of this film or his other films. Most of them are love them or hate them ventures, and Breaking the Waves is no exception."