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Breaking the Waves (1996)

R | | Drama | 13 November 1996 (USA)
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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)
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Popularity
4,768 ( 84)
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

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

When Jan leaves to go to the rig, one of the crew men gives Bess a flask of liquor. When she takes a sip, she's holding the flask with both hands and its opening is on the left side. There's a quick cut, and in the next shot the opening is shown to be on the right side of the flask. 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 »


Soundtracks

Whiskey in the Jar
Written by Phil Lynott, Eric Bell and Brian Downey
Performed by Thin Lizzy
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A powerful, original vision. One of the greatest movies of the last ten years.
15 July 2003 | by InfofreakSee all my reviews

It's a pity that for most people Lars von Trier's involvement with the Dogme group of film makers is the main thing they know about him. Wherever you stand on the Dogme issue (personally I'm all for it as long as they continue to make movies as great as 'Festen' and 'The Idiots'), his brief alliance with the group has overshadowed amazing work like 'Element Of Crime', 'Europa' and 'Breaking The Waves'. 'Breaking The Waves' was made before the Dogme manifesto was formulated, but it can be seen as a step in that direction, with its use of documentary techniques as opposed to the flamboyant and highly stylized approach of von Trier's earlier films. To me the ends justifies the means, and the bottom line is that this is an extraordinary and powerful movie, one of the greatest of the last ten years. The main reason it is so remarkable is because of the devastating performance of Emily Watson, one of the most impressive screen debuts in the history of film. Watson plays Bess McNeill, a naive and odd young woman living in a remote and deeply religious Scottish community. She is so good in this movie she'll leave you speechless! Stellan Skarsgard, a most underrated actor in my opinion,('Insomnia', 'Ronin') plays Bess's husband and is also superb, and the supporting cast includes the late Katrin Cartlidge ('Naked') as Watson's sister-in-law, and von Trier regulars Jean-Marc Barr (almost unrecognizable from his leading role in 'Europa'), as one of Skarsgard's work buddies, and cult legend Udo Kier ('Flesh For Frankenstein', 'The Story Of O') in a cameo as a very nasty piece of work who Bess has the misfortune to encounter. The less you know about this movie the more powerful it will be, and even a jaded cynic like myself was surprised at how effective its spiritual theme was. To me 'Breaking The Waves' is a much better more than von Trier's better known 'Dancer In The Dark', and Watson's performance makes Bjork's look like that of an enthusiastic but not very talented amateur (which of course, is exactly what she is). Highly recommended.


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