Breaking the Waves

Breaking the Waves

Release Date: 1996-00-00
Wide Release


Film Genre(s): Melodrama, Psychological Drama



With Breaking The Waves, director Lars von Trier fashions an often disturbing, sometimes repellent tale of the singular power of love. Bess (an astonishing Emily Watson) is a naïve, borderline simple young woman who lives in a Scottish coastal town ruled by the religious doctrine of its council of elders. Recovering from a mental breakdown caused by the death of her brother, Bess marries a rough yet compassionate and attentive oil rig worker named Jan (Stellan Skarsgård). For a brief time, the couple enjoys peaceful wedded bliss, with the worldly Jan introducing Bess to the mysteries of sex. Jan must soon return to his job on the rig, however, where he is paralyzed from the neck down in a freak accident. Bess' emotional trauma over Jan's injury turns into obsession as she prays to God for his recovery and offers to do anything to have her husband back whole. Jan, constantly medicated and profoundly depressed, asks Bess to have sex with other men and tell him about it, thinking this will allow her to return to a normal life. Bess, on the other hand, sees it as an expression of her devotion to Jan that even God won't be able to ignore. Bess' resultant downward spiral leads to a finale of both tragedy and spirituality. Breaking the Waves is one of the most distinctive European movies of the 1990s, marking von Trier's movement toward his influential Dogma 95 school of filmmaking, which emphasizes realistic situations of contemporary life, filmed without background music, with surprising shifts of angles and film styles, and with a hand-held, restlessly moving camera. Its daring originality, vertiginous camera movements, and unsettling story make Breaking the Waves a highly significant advance in filmmaking, yet also a film that not all viewers will enjoy. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide