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
4,289 ( 51)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 44 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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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was #7 on Roger Ebert 's list of the Best Films of 1990s. 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.
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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 At the Movies: Memo to the Academy - 1997 (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Blowin' in the Wind
Written by Bob Dylan
Performed by Tom Harboe, Jan Harboe and Ulrik Corlin
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User Reviews

 
This film is not for the faint of heart or soul.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most emotionally devastating films I've ever seen in my life. It seems to be a rumination on the true nature of goodness. Bess is a simple creature and her purity and innocence are delivered by Emily Watson in a heartbreaking performance that you will not soon forget. It is a crime that Watson didn't win Best Actress for this role, though I imagine that many voters were turned off by the disturbing subject matter of this film. I had a visceral reaction to the film in the form of serious physical and emotional discomfort. I had rented it, and actually had to stop it at several points and give myself some time to recover before continuing on. I'm not sure it's a film that I'd ever want to see a second time, but I believe it is a true work of art and am grateful to have seen it.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 November 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Breaking the Waves See more »

Filming Locations:

Scotland, UK See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$3,803,298

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,826,798
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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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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