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Breaking the Waves 1996

Oilman Jan is paralyzed in an accident. His wife, who prayed for his return, feels guilty; even more, when Jan urges her to have sex with another...

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Solar rating: 6.5


Imdb rating: 7.9



Breaking the Waves (1996) (**1/2)

This film both pissed me off and made me happy at the same time. Its underlying story is strong. Emily Watson who believes she can channel god through her believes that by whoring her body she can save her dying husband. Thats the premise for an amazing the right hands. Lars Von Trier who also directed Dancer in the Dark, a film I liked, simply does not have any control over the flow of this film. Its over two and a half hours long and I usually dont say this but this film had no buisness staying on screen for that long. Parts that dont need to be long are and scenes that could have used more development are neglected. Watson gives a great performance but even that becomes tedious as she gives the same emotion scene after scene. Shes an interesting character but in my opinion not a very dynamic one. Shes interesting sure, but we always know whats coming next. I would have liked to see more changes and progression of her character personally. As this film was coming to a close I was all ready for Von Trier to give another amazing conclusion a la Dancer in the Dark and what I got make me want to break Von Triers neck. I wont tell you what happens if you havent seen the movie, but if you have just know that it pissed me off. one of the more disturbing lines I've ever heard in a movie. Breaking the Waves, which I saw at the theaters when it first came out, is a powerful, touching drama that will move you to tears...even more powerful now that I'm watching it for the first time again on DVD since I've had more experience working with the mentally ill population...Emily Watson's sensitive portrayal as the naive Bess will break your's truly a remarkable movie and the hand held camera technique in the making of the movie adds intimacy and roughness that complements the marsh location with the cold damp atmosphere and rugged shores...I'm just glad I finally have it in my DVD collection after looking for it in the stores for months!!

As I'm going to see Dogville tomorrow it seemed appropriate to see this first as I'm told it's by the same director. Only videod off the telly but sometimes needs must. Turns out it has to (I'm sure) be by the same dude who did Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself; it contains many of the same elements including an enigmatic, child-like female lead, preoccupations with death, illness and sex, and a Danish / Scottish cast. The Wilbur's brother actor plays a doctor in this one too. Religion is a major theme here though that wasn't so evident in Wilbur. Loved the music: exactly my era with Mott the Hoople, T Rex, Python Lee Jackson et al. Wonder if there's a soundtrack album. Overall a very strange film that stews around in your mind afterwards. But I'm half hoping I'll hate Dogville, so I can take a leaf out of Spinal Tap's book and post the single word review: Dogshit. Seems unlikely though. HT

Pro: Powerful!!! Watson's role, from the look into the camera to the rabbit nose. Conversations with God. The ending. The raw aesthetic look of the film.

Con: Overlong. The last image (too much).
Yourself or the one you love? That's the ultimate question driving Emily Watson's character, Bess, in the tragic love story, "Breaking the Waves".

This is a excellent film. I'm just going to express some thoughts and feelings about it; it's not really a review. It probably won't mean much if you haven't seen it to know what I'm talking about.

First off, I have to say that Emily Watson's performance was simply perfect. She wasn't just playing Bess, she became her. You feel every emotion with her. Stellan Skarsgard, as Jan, and Katrin Cartlidge, as Dodo, are great, too, but Emily will blow you away. I didn't think much of it at the time, because I love "Fargo" and I hadn't seen this film, but how did Ms. Watson not beat Frances McDormand for Best Actress that year? How could she not beat anyone she was up against any year with this performance? (And I love Frances!) Anyway, awards aren't what matters; I digress. You haven't seen innocence, love, faith, fragility, joy, heartache, devotion, portrayed so nakedly, so truly, until you've seen this.

I'm not going to rehash the plot; that can be read about plenty of other places. The devices used by the director work well. The chapter "intermissions" contain lovely and strange landscapes, with the "outsider" music Bess loves playing over them. Those are cool. But the best thing is the hand-held camera work, the editing, and the close-ups. It's a very intimate experience for the viewer, like you're really there, not just watching a film.

I'm left with many questions to ponder. Is Bess really insane? Is she really able to control Jan's fate with her actions? In other words, does she really have a direct connection to God or is she just delusional? That's all open to interpretation by the viewer. I would say she was profoundly misguided, blinded by her love and faith and innocence. She always maintained a deep connection to her own feelings, and pretty much expressed them whenever she had them. She was emotionally naked most of the time. That alone was enough for her strictly religious town to deem her mentally ill in the past. (Though I loved that the doctor told her being sad doesn't mean you're sick.) I do think something otherworldy was at work, though I hate to think it was God, because of how cruel that would make Him. Her true love for Jan, and her faith in the power of that love, are maybe the real forces at work here, for better and for worse.

I'm wondering about Jan's motivation; why he asked her to do what she did. Was he bitter and angry about what happened to him so he took it out on her? Was he just cruel and didn't really love her? Was it truly just the trauma and the drugs that made him do it? Or did he really believe he was doing the right thing? It bothered me that he asked Bess to do it knowing full-well that she would listen to him and "obey", though I don't think he realized that it would ultimately be her undoing. I believe that he did truly love her, didn't realize how far she would take it, and was definitely influenced by the drugs and his own depression.

At the end, when I saw the result of Bess's sacrifice, it killed me. I haven't had my heart broken that hard from a movie in a long time. But the very final scene is joyful, incredibly. (There seems to be some debate about the bells - IMO, God wasn't ringing the bells, Bess was.)

What I've written here doesn't even come close to doing this film justice. Great film, phenomenal performance. I'm richer for having seen it.
in continuing my "disturbing movie reviews", here we go..... great movie, great perfomances- emily watson is sum up the story, a woman, who is adorable but doesn't seem to be all there, becomes smitten with a guy who becomes paralyzed from a terrible accident at work... since he can no longer perform sexually, he encourages her to sew her oats around town...he seems almost forceful about it- as if overcompensating for his inability by pushing her to extreme sexuality with others...she follows his desires out of love for him and is introduced to the seediest men in town.... she is treated with verbal and physical abuse, and the audience is witness to her downward a word, heartbreaking!
this movie is extremely powerful and will dice your emotions up like sushi
***1/2 / *****

Breaking the Waves is the story of Bess McNeill , a religious woman who believes that her actions are guided by God, and her husband Jan Nyman , an oilman who becomes paralyzed by an accident. The way Lars von Trier approaches this subject matter and story is very unique in a sense that he uses a raw way of filming Breaking the Waves so that the viewer feels are if they are actually watching these people's lives unfold right in fron of them. Though Stellan Skarsg
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Breaking the Waves (von Trier, 1996)

Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves does a rather remarkable job of being one part emotionally devastating and one part spiritually uplifting. Von Trier's film guides us through a bevy of emotions. What begins as an effective and endearing romance soon shifts to a spirit shattering tragedy. For the most part, von Trier handles all the elements of his melodrama well, and it mostly strikes all the right chords. Emily Watson has received much acclaim for her lead performance, and I can only feel that it has been fully justified. Watson's character is the true emotional core for the film, and its effectiveness seems completely reliant on the believability of her performance. Though the film is thoroughly engaging for the duration of its runtime, I couldn't help but feel it ran a little long for its material. I'm also not sure that von Trier's decision to fully visualize the film's spiritual ending was the wisest choice. Despite those somewhat minor complaints, von Trier's film is a completely moving and challenging experience.

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