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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 41,304 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 220 user | 106 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.

Director:

(as Lars Von Trier)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 46 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

Helena Bonham Carter was originally cast in the role of Bess. One of the reasons she turned it down was because of the sex content, arguing she didn't feel comfortable enough with her body at that age. 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 Screening (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Happy Landing
Written by Paul Harmann
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Outstanding film of complicated, unsettling ideas
7 January 1999 | by (Fargo, North Dakota) – See all my reviews

The first time I saw Breaking the Waves, I was astonished that Emily Watson had not acted for the cinema before her turn as Bess McNeill. What she brings to the role of the naive Scottish girl offers a clinic on superlative acting that could humble veterans with ten times the experience. Another thing that makes this film so special is that it never backs away from its vivid and mature examination of love, commitment, and aspects of the metaphysical. I easily class this work as one of the top films of the 1990s. Director Lars von Trier is a true visionary, and the (largely hand-held) cinematography by Robby Muller perfectly defines the tone of the film -- in fact, the theatre where I saw Breaking the Waves posted a disclaimer that warned anyone who suffers from motion or sea-sickness to see the film at their own peril!


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