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Breaking the Waves (1996)

 -  Drama | Romance  -  13 November 1996 (USA)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 41,804 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 221 user | 109 critic | 28 from Metacritic.com

Oilman Jan is paralyzed in an accident. His wife, who prayed for his return, feels guilty; even more, when Jan urges her to have sex with another.

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(as Lars Von Trier)
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Title: Breaking the Waves (1996)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 47 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Terry
...
Dr. Richardson
Jonathan Hackett ...
Priest
Sandra Voe ...
Mother
...
Mikkel Gaup ...
Pits
...
Pim
Phil McCall ...
Grandfather
Robert Robertson ...
Chairman
Desmond Reilly ...
An Elder
Sarah Gudgeon ...
Sybilla
Finlay Welsh ...
Coroner (as Finley Welsh)
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Storyline

Drama set in a repressed, deeply religious community in the north of Scotland, where a naive young woman named Bess McNeil meets and falls in love with Danish oil-rig worker Jan. Bess and Jan are deeply in love but, when Jan returns to his rig, Bess prays to God that he returns for good. Jan does return, his neck broken in an accident aboard the rig. Because of his condition, Jan and Bess are now unable to enjoy a sexual relationship and Jan urges Bess to take another lover and tell him the details. As Bess becomes more and more deviant in her sexual behavior, the more she comes to believe that her actions are guided by God and are helping Jan recover. Written by Jonathan Broxton <j.w.broxton@sheffield.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

love | accident | sex | scotland | oil rig | See All (57) »

Taglines:

Love is a mighty power.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Language:

Release Date:

13 November 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Contra viento y marea  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$110,741 (USA) (22 November 1996)

Gross:

$4,040,691 (USA) (2 May 1997)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first film in Lars von Trier's "Golden Heart" trilogy in which the heroines remain naïve despite their actions. The two other parts are The Idiots (1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000). See more »

Goofs

(at around 7 mins) When Bess is in bed with her sister-in-law, the blanket is on, then off, Bess' shoulder. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Bess McNeill: His name is Jan.
The Minister: I do not know him.
Bess McNeill: [coyly] He's from the lake.
The Minister: You know we do not favor matrimony with outsiders.
An Elder: Can you even tell us what matrimony is?
Bess McNeill: It's when two people are joined in God.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in De ydmygede (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Written by Keith Reid and Gary Brooker
Performed by Procol Harum
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Leap of Faith
5 March 2007 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

"Dogville" is one of my all-time favourite films, and the most disturbing film I've ever seen. I've wanted to see "Breaking the Waves" in quite a while, and recently I finally had the chance. Now I can't say which one is better. What a heartbreaking experience. Emily Watson had one of the best film debuts ever, and this is probably the most accomplished female performance I've seen since Julianne Moore in "The Hours". Actually, if I had to list 3 favourite female performances now, I'd mention Watson, Moore and Isabelle Huppert in "The Piano Teacher". Lars von Trier has a special talent to direct women: just remember Nicole Kidman's and Björk's remarkable performances in "Dogville" and "Dancer in the Dark", respectively.

"Breaking the Waves" tells the story of the pure Bess McNeill (Watson) and her unconditional love for Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgård), who is paralyzed after an accident at the oil-rig he works in. Then, Jan convinces Bess to have sex with other men and tell him the details of the sexual encounters, so he won't "forget" how to do it. Bess is determined to make Jan happy and to prove to God that she loves him, but she soon loses control of her actions. The storyline might sound absurd, but Von Trier isn't a joker and he takes us into a devastating journey. Katrin Cartlidge (1961-2002), an extremely gifted actress ("Naked", "Before the Rain", "Claire Dolan", "Career Girls", "Topsy-Turvy" and "No Man's Land") who died too young, delivers a captivating, discreet supporting performance as Dodo, Bess' loving sister-in-law.

I'd say "Breaking the Waves" and "Dogville" are opposite masterpieces: "Waves" being about love and goodness, "Dogville" being about hatred and evil, among other things, of course (nothing's easy or simple in Von Trier's universe). Both films are extremely dark and hard to watch, but "Waves" shows that Von Trier has faith in mankind. His detractors like to label him as a cynical atheist, but "Breaking the Waves" definitely proved me the opposite. Von Trier made a poignant epic about the struggle of an innocent, good-hearted woman who wants to do what God wants her to do (or, at least, what she thinks He wants her to do) and make her husband happy - even if she has to sacrifice herself for that. It's a leap of faith both for Bess and the watcher, who's got to decide if he's ready for such an experience. I wasn't disappointed at all. 10 out of 10.


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