Breaking the Waves is a surprisingly spiritual film whose effect
gradually sneaks up on you throughout its length. Emily Watson
stars as Bess, an innocent and naive girl raised in a stern northern
Scottish village. At the film's outset, she pleads for and is
granted permission to marry an outsider by the church elders. The
outsider in question is Jan (Stellan Skarsgard), a bearish worker
on an oil rig in the North Sea. The first few days of their marriage
are wonderful...but soon it becomes obvious that Bess is a bit simple.
She devotes herself fully to Jan, and when he has to leave she is
overly stricken with grief. In one of many conversations with God,
Bess asks for Jan's swift return. Her wish is granted...Jan is involved
in a serious accident on the oil rig, and returns paralyzed. Bess
believes that he will only get better through love, and to prove
her love she submits herself fully to his wishes. Her faith is tested
when he asks her to take a lover and tell him the juicy details.
At over two and a half hour in length, Breaking the Waves takes its
time to unfold. But when it does, you truly feel as if you know the
characters. The film paces its developments, and manages to sustain
and even build your interest as it progresses. Emily Watson is impressive
in her role, playing it with childlike innocence. You can't help but
feel for her character. Some of the film's twists strain credibility
and are unwanted, but the film stays true to its own standards. The
worst part of Breaking the Waves that it is poorly shot.
Even for an independent film, the camerawork is sloppy. The film is divided
into chapters, each of which has a beautifully shot opening sequence,
which only makes the out of focus and jittery work in the rest of the film
all the more obvious. Director Lars Von Trier has managed to create a
slightly flawed work examining faith, doubt and spirituality.
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