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Breaking the Waves

Starring Emily Watson
Written and Directed by Lars von Trier

Right up front I'll tell you that Cranky cannot be totally objective about Breaking the Waves. I'll just give you the straight ahead and we'll take it from there.

Lars von Triers' Breaking the Waves is divided into seven chapters and an epilogue, each detailing a chapter in the life of Bessie MacGregor (Emily Watson). As each chapter begins, a verse from a popular song by The Kinks, Rod Stewart, the Moody Blues, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen or another classic rock groups sets the scene.

Bessie has been raised in an isolated, clannish and God-fearing Scottish community. As a woman in her church, she is a second class citizen. She must ask permission of her Elders before she is allowed to marry an "outsider," a North Sea oil man named Jan (Stellan Skarsgard). Bessie has never had a man before her wedding day, and before the celebrations have ended, she has. What's more, she finds that she really, really likes it. So when her husband has to return to the oil rig, she is upset. She throws a tantrum -- for, as the film delicately puts it, Bessie is a little "stupid." At least, that's how the doctors who previously treated her put it.

In a visually fascinating schizo performance, Watson's Bessie drops to her knees in church and asks questions of God in a girlish voice. Then her voice drops a couple of octaves and "God" answers the questions. Not wanting to wait the ten days for her husband's return, Bessie asks God to bring him back "now." "Is that what you want?" replies God. "Yes, that is what I want."

Thanks to a horrific accident on the oil rig, that is exactly what she gets. Jan's drug addled, perverse demands on his wife fuel the remaining chapters of the film. Despite the best efforts of her mother and widowed sister-in-law to care for both Jan and Bessie, the latter spirals out of control into a sexual netherworld that would do Mary Magdalene proud.

By the time it is finished, you will question the nature of miracles, and the existence of God. Breaking the Waves wraps itself in religious allegory that is stunning and affecting.To all in the house, but Cranky.

For, you see, Cranky has lived this story. The horrific accident. The delusional woman. The medical miracle. All of it. While all attention is focused on Bessie, Cranky focused on Jan. Been there, done that, lived it all (except for the perverse manipulation of a wife). Which is why I cannot be totally objective about Breaking the Waves.

As it is, Oscar® nominated, Breaking the Waves gets the standard Oscar® race rating of . . .

$7.00

The performances are all good. Von Trier's constant use of a hand held camera, shooting documentary style, annoyed the hell out of me. Watson's Academy Award® nomination is not unjustified.

Click to buy films starring Emily Watson
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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.