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Thursday, June 12, 2014

275 of 1001 Movies: Breaking the Waves (1996)

After seeing a couple of movies from controversial director, Lars Von Trier, I thought I was prepared to go into watching Breaking the Waves knowing it would be dark and odd, but unlike the other movies I've seen from him this had an ingredient the others didn't quite have, and that was heart. With performances that actually feel real, and not just odd for the sake of being weird you actually begin to feel the emotions happening in the movie. This was a good movie, but so emotional that I could only watch it once. It made me feel what the movie was feeling, but I also would never want to experience it again.

Summary: Bess feels on top of the world after she is married to the man she loves, Jan. She is warned by her very religious and uptight village though that she shouldn't marry a man that is unfamiliar to their village. Soon after they are married Jan has to return to his job as an oilman. Bess is devastated that he is gone, and is desperate to find any way she can have him return sooner. She prays that God will bring him home, and well she gets her prayer fulfilled. Jan does come home, but only after an incident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. Now Bess believes that the more sexual acts she does with other men the chances of him healing can happen.


Acting: Well I have to say the most superb thing about the movie is the acting. Emily Watson stars in her first role and a leading one at that as Bess. Watson makes the role compelling and real despite the fact that Bess seems like a whole lot of crazy. That is the only way I could think to put it. The woman just isn't normal. So what type of guy would marry Bess? Well Jan, and who is he portrayed by? Stellan Skarsgard who is popular choice for director Lars Von Trier. Skarsgard is in his most memorable role I've seen from him. There is something that just seems to be more real about the guy, and alive than other movies I've seen him in. How he changes and graphs into a man that seems a bit disturbed himself is one that is compelling and painful to watch.

Filming: Lars Von Trier seems to make hit or miss movies. This was one of the hits, but it doesn't skip all the unique bits that make it a movie from Trier. Each scenario of the movie is presented as a progressing chapter with a very fitting song from the 70's to set the mood. You also have a lot of shots that make the movie feel real to life and keep it almost feeling as if it is a documentary style like movie. If there is one thing he has always held true to it is his style.

Plot: The plot is painful to watch and it only gets more painful as the movie goes on. I have to say that though I appreciated the movie and liked it, it is one I could never watch again. It was too painful to watch the first time, and I kept having to pause because I could see the disaster that Bess was walking into by offering herself to men and anyone who would accept. I still feel very raw the emotions I felt while watching this movie. If it wasn't for the acting though I felt this movie risked slipping into the bizarre moments of other Trier movies, where the characters are so strange and weird that they aren't anything like normal, real people. Somehow even though still odd, Bess strikes a chord with viewers.

Breaking the Waves was just recently released again on Criterion Collection. I couldn't watch this movie for two years because it wasn't available till the rerelease. It's worth watching, but holds true to the state of Trier's troubled mind of characters. He blends fairy tale like moments with other realities so dark that it becomes a disturbing mesh of reality.

Rating 8 of 10.


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