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Breaking the Waves (1996)
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Breaking the Waves (1996)


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Posted by Jan (145.53.141.105) on September 09, 2003 at 07:42:51:

In Reply to: Lars von Trier (movie maker) posted by Jan den Breejen (145.53.141.105) on September 09, 2003 at 07:35:13:

some reviews:

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 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 --This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

HEARTBREAKING, March 26, 2001
Reviewer: Erika Wolfe (see more about me) from Reykjavik, Iceland
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 na?ve 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.


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:

A legitimate masterpiece, January 26, 2001
Reviewer: organic prankster (see more about me) from at the bottom of the pacific
Lars Von Trier, the Danish director, had previously best been known internationally for his surreal but affecting television series, The Kingdom, which was perhaps too odd for general consumption, but was nevertheless good enough to recieve a theatrical release around the world.

Next, he made Breaking the Waves, which took his art to a new level. Probably still his most accessible work, the movie is the first of a trilogy he has labeled 'The Golden Heart films' (Idioterne and Dancer in the Dark are the other two). It is a film about purity, with Emily Watson's Bess giving everything for love. Her dignity and her sanity are just the first things to go.

The subject matter is grim and the film is not for everyone. But Watson's performance especially, is so powerfully overwhelming that it deserves to be seen by anybody who feels they can handle the certainly depressing content. Lars Von Trier's greatest talent is drawing incredible performances from his actors. The level of commitment carries the viewer through the story at a level of intensity generally not seen on the screen. Frankly, the woman was robbed of the Academy Award. This is one of the finest performances you will ever see.

Shot largely in close-up with his by now trademark shaky camera work, Lars Trier in Breaking the Waves, has provided us with a unique, disturbing masterpiece - totally unlike anything previously filmed. It is also one of the most truly distressing films ever made. Second only to Dancer in the Dark, the experience will stay with you for a long, long time.

However, despite its violent ugliness Breaking the Waves is also a surprisingly beautiful movie, about purity and emotions. If I may paraphrase a recent TV review I saw of it: Von Trier has tapped into something so potent you wonder if it wasn't best left alone.

I can understand what they mean - it is shockingly effective, like being hit on the head with a mallet - but it wasn't best left alone. It is a deeply spiritual and, possibly, life-changing movie. It is undoubtedly challenging.

And if you have had problems relating to his later films, this is possibly the place to start. It may explain his cinematic vision better than anything else he's done.

You will never ever forget it. --This text refers to the DVD edition.


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Oppresive, September 5, 2003
Reviewer: fat_runner (see more about me) from l.o
I'm almost certain that Lars von Trier is one of the meanest filmakers to ever live. In this light, Breaking the Waves is, so far, his magnum opus. The supreme statement of opressiveness from a director who gets off to putting an audience through a meat grinder, mixing in battery acid and a good bottle of burbon or two, packing them in half a pound of aluminum foil, baking at 375 for 30 minutes, sticking toothpics in them, and then serving them with some sort of caustic sweet and sour sauce. It even has turns of humor, love, and beauty, but everything else is just so f****** frigid.

I don't find the dogme style to be particularly admirable, and indeed hold some level of contempt for it (as should be for any artistic or political "movement", however "right" or "wrong" their ideas), but I can't deny that some terrific films have been made in its style (notably, Festen), this being one of them. Even though watching this is a thorougly unenjoyable emotional rollercoaster of an experience (although there's no denying how well executed it is), I escaped with thoughts of how incredibly good it was occuring as frequently as those telling me how much I had hated it.

As contemptable as it is, Breaking the Waves is one of the few movies that anyone should ever deem a "must see" (at least for anyone willing to relinquish three hours of their life... hours they'll never, ever, ever get back... hours that will make you feel as numb as your a$$ will...), simply because, as an experience, it will take you through a range of emotions matched by very few other films (as well as featuring some of the most contemptable "bad guys" ever... even though they're more irrationally earnest than "bad"). --This text refers to the DVD edition.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

Not for the faint of heart., August 7, 2003
Reviewer: funky_ape (see more about me) from Atlanta
Anyone that has seen "Dancer in the Dark" knows that Lars Von Trier's films can be both heartwarming and extremely dark at the same time. "Breaking the Waves" is no exception, in fact, it epitomizes the 'Von Trier' style. This is Emily Watson's first feature film role and she truly steals the movie. She brings, to the character of Bess, humanization that causes the audience to pity and sympathize with her, inspite of her audacious and dangerous behavior. Von Trier succeeds in balancing Bess' extreme character with Bess' husband and best friend. Bess does not come off as an unbelievebale character. She is simply a person who is a pure and innocent soul. This is central to the film and it is a testament to Von Trier's writing ability that at the end we still find this to be true.

This film also comes right before Von Trier began the 'Dogme 95' collective with Thomas Vinterberg. You can see many of the techniques that would become a part of the Dogme manifesto in this movie. In fact the only 'music' used in the film comes during chapter breaks. These chapter breaks serve as a preperation for the mood to come and last about 45 seconds. In these, Von Trier holds on a surreal landscape while an Elton John, or other, song plays through the chorus. It really adds to the film. The same Dogme camera work is here as well.

If you enjoyed "Dancer in the Dark" but felt the ending of that film was a bit heavy then stay away from "Breaking the Waves". But if you enjoy beautiful films that take you on a journey through many emotions, then by all means check this film out. --This text refers to the DVD edition.





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