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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
His name is Jan.
I do not know him.
He's from the lake.
You know we do not favor matrimony with outsiders.
Can you even tell us what matrimony is?
It's when two people are joined in God.
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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 »
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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