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Breaking the Waves (1996)

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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
3,975 ( 476)
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

Was #6 on Martin Scorsese 's list of the Best Films of 1990s. 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

In the home video release of the film, the 8th chapter card is accompanied by Elton John's "Your Song", but in the theatrical release, that chapter card was accompanied by David Bowie's "Life On Mars". Most recent video releases (such as the Fox UK Region 2 DVD) use "Life On Mars." See more »

Connections

Featured in Tranceformer - A Portrait of Lars von Trier (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

I Did What I Did for Maria
Written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander
Performed by Tony Christie
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Outstanding film of complicated, unsettling ideas
7 January 1999 | by pooch-8See 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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