7.9/10
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233 user 93 critic

Breaking the Waves (1996)

R | | Drama | 13 November 1996 (USA)
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2:11 | Trailer

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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:

Lars von Trier (as Lars Von Trier)

Writers:

Lars von Trier, Peter Asmussen (co-writer)
Reviews
Popularity
3,727 ( 163)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 43 wins & 27 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Emily Watson ... Bess McNeill
Stellan Skarsgård ... Jan Nyman
Katrin Cartlidge ... Dodo McNeill
Jean-Marc Barr ... Terry
Adrian Rawlins ... Dr. Richardson
Jonathan Hackett Jonathan Hackett ... Priest
Sandra Voe Sandra Voe ... Mother
Udo Kier ... Sadistic Sailor
Mikkel Gaup ... Pits
Roef Ragas ... Pim
Phil McCall Phil McCall ... Grandfather
Robert Robertson Robert Robertson ... Chairman
Desmond Reilly Desmond Reilly ... An Elder
Sarah Gudgeon 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

Taglines:

Love is a mighty power.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 November 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Contra viento y marea See more »

Filming Locations:

Copenhagen, Denmark See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$110,741, 22 November 1996

Gross USA:

$4,040,691, 4 May 1997
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Stellan Skarsgård has appeared in seven of Lars von Trier's features: 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 »

Alternate Versions

The director's cut of the film, featuring explicit shots removed from the U.S. version for ratings purposes, is available on Criterion laserdisc. See more »

Connections

Featured in What Is Cinema? (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Scotland the Brave
Traditional tune
Lyrics by Clifford Hanley
Performed by Tom Harboe, Jan Harboe and Ulrik Corlin
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

My brief review of the film
23 November 2005 | by sol-See all my reviews

A film about love, faith, religion and many other things, it is a draining experience but yet fascinating to watch, with superb acting and an intriguing main character. It is surprising how gripping the film is, as it is difficult to watch, not just because of the subject matter, but also because of its style. Made by the conventions of Dogme '95, the film has many extreme close-ups, generally shaky camera-work and errors in continuity for editing and audio levels, all of which is supposed to amount to a film that looks and feels more realistic. With this film though, the quality of the acting and writing provide enough realism alone, and therefore the style serves no purpose other than to make the film more difficult to digest. It is an incredibly long film, and while this is not too much of a problem, the chapter markers are noticeably long without much reason either. Still, the film comes through despite its detracting bits. Watson, in her first film performance, is excellent, and Cartlidge provides great support. This is not an easy film to watch and like, but it is easy to admire what is done well in the film.


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