Class Act/ Drama Movie

Breaking The Waves

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Distributed By: Artisan Entertainment

Reviewed by Justine Manzano


     If there is anything I love about going to college, it’s the fact that you are forever being pushed to look outside the box.  Residence within your comfort zone does not a good movie or book make.  If anything tried this fact and proved it to be true it was watching Breaking The Waves by Lars Von Trier.

     This movie has a great story to it.  My film class was shown the beginning of this movie and asked whether or not we wanted to see it.  All of us felt the same way—the entire first portion of the movie was the two main characters having sex.  We were split.  Some of us wanted to see more sex.  The others were tired of the embarrassment of watching the explicit sex scenes with a bunch of people who were virtually strangers.  Our professor urged us that it wouldn’t be more of the same—the story changes drastically from there.  He asked us to watch a little more and then we could choose again.  By the time our professor asked again, the response was unanimous—we all wanted more.

     Breaking the Waves takes place in a religiously strict area of Scotland and follows the darling of the church, Bess McNeil (Emily Watson, Red Dragon, Punch-Drunk Love).  Bess, who is not exactly mentally sound, has met and fell in love with an outsider of the church, Jan (Stellan Skaarsgard, Pirates of the Caribbean, King Arthur) who works on an oil rig.  Emotionally unstable, Bess is ripped apart when Jan temporarily returns to the oil rig and she prays that he will come back to her soon.  Her prayers are answered, but not in the way she would have liked.  During an accident on the rig, Jan is paralyzed, and comes home as a shell of the man he once was. 

     Distraught by the fact that he doesn’t feel like he can be a true husband because he can no longer have sex with her and highly medicated, Jan begins to distance himself from Bess as Bess is overcome with guilt, believing that her prayers for Jan to come home is what caused his paralysis.   So, when Jan asks Bess to take another lover and then tell him about their exploits, Bess refuses until Jan takes a turn for the worse, at which point she begins to believe that this means God is telling her to go along with it.  As time goes on, Bess’ behavior grows increasingly risky, leading to a heart breaking and miraculous ending that will surprise any fan of Von Trier whose films are firmly planted in the real world.

     Breaking The Waves is shot on a hand held camera and has no music except in the nearly psychedelic chapter breaks.  The actors are not perfectly beautiful and the story is odd.  It may not be what you expect or even want from a movie but stick it out.  At the end of the movie, my class was asked whether or not we were happy we watched the entire movie.  Once again, the vote was a unanimous yes.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. 

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Other Class Act Films:

Pride and Prejudice

Double Indemnity

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