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Breaking the Waves Movie Review

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This extremely long film (17 minutes longer than Secrets and Lies, which felt like forever) is not suitable for everyone on Planet Earth, like, for example, ME. I suspect that it impressed the Grand Jury at the Cannes Film Festival because of its power and its sincerity, and because of Emily Watson's tremendously hard work as Bess. Obviously I can't speak for The Deity, with whom Bess has so MANY conversations, but I suspect that God is a lot more forgiving of us (and, consequently, Bess) than we are of ourselves or each other. Bess’ course of action is entirely clear to her, but her masochism is a mystery to me for the entire length of the narrative. Why should she punish herself by sleeping with other men because her husband is in an accident? To demonstrate that religious fervor is irrational? Or pointless? One senses the Victorian sensibility of an Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights) or a William Somerset Maugham (Christmas Holiday) lurking about this sad story set in the 1970s. For someone who grew up listening skeptically to old nun's tales of little boys pocketing the Communion wafer, thereby drowning the whole Congregation in the Blood of Christ, Bess’ self-torture clearly made a heckuva lot more sense to the filmmakers than it did to me. The ending made me feel like I'd just walked in front of a Mack truck. According to the May 7, 1997, Express, Helena Bonham Carter withdrew from the role of Bess, explaining that she “loved the part, but had an allergic reaction to the idea of this girl, whose husband is a paraplegic, who goes and prostitutes herself in the belief that it will make him better.” If Breaking the Waves is your favorite movie—and it was for two viewers who recommended it to me without reservations—great, but I've lost my early tenacity for sitting through films-as-agony except by accident!!!

1995 (R) 152m/C DK FR Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Katrin Cartlidge, Adrian Rawlins, Jean-Marc Barr, Sandra Voe, Udo Kier, Mikkel Gaup; D: Lars von Trier; W: Lars von Trier; C: Robby Muller; M: Joachim Holbek. Cannes Film Festival ‘96: Grand Jury Prize; Cesar Awards ‘97: Best Foreign Film; New York Film Critics Awards ‘96: Best Actress (Watson), Best Cinematography, Best Director (von Trier); National Society of Film Critics Awards ‘96: Best Actress (Watson), Best Cinematography, Best Director (von Trier), Best Film; Nominations: Academy Awards ‘96: Best Actress (Watson); British Academy Awards ‘96: Best Actress (Watson); Golden Globe Awards ‘97: Best Actress—Drama (Watson), Best Film—Drama; Independent Spirit Awards ‘97: Best Foreign Film. VHS, Letterbox, Closed Caption

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