It shows a devestating crumbling process of a young naive Scottish woman. Emily Watson is terrific! I really loved the camera work in this film.
I hated this movie! I found it unbelievably stilted – Bess’ characterization was just laughable, and even more laughable was the depiction of the church (“We consign you to an eternity in hell!”) and the two-dimensional feminist stance (“I think it’s stupid that women aren’t allowed to speak in the church” / “Hold your tongue, woman!”). What a terrible, terrible, shallow film.
i just watched this film a week or so ago and loved it also. the church people are supposed to be two-dimensional because of there proud pious people. the Bess characterization is supposed to be innocent and child like…i enjoyed the movie
“Well, you know he’s [Lars Von Trier’s] very, very, very clever about women. He gives the woman a space that I don’t know any filmmaker does. Because in Breaking The Waves, [protagonist Emily Watson] is the Christ. Which man is doing that? I don’t know any man giving that space to a woman. No one.”
~ Chantal Akerman
I haven’t seen the film, yet, but on Akerman’s recommendation alone I think two things;
1. The people criticizing Von Trier of being a misogynist may actually be the shallow ones (Antichrist, or Dancer in the Dark certainly weren’t misogynistic in the least bit).
2. This film in particular is worth a deep feminist reading.
But like I said, though, I haven’t seen it yet.
“The people criticizing Von Trier of being a misogynist may actually be the shallow ones”
Uhhhhhhhh….wait till you see the movie. It’s, uh, pretty complicated. Let’s just say I don’t know if I agree with Akerman on this one. I mean, wasn’t the first mortification of Christ enough? Did Baron Trier really have to do it again?
But that church elder who crushes the pint glass with his hand?
Did not enjoy this at all. Not a fan of Von Trier. However, I feel that Emily Watson’s Bess ranks up there with Moon So-ri in Oasis as two of the best female performances I’ve ever seen.
All Christ-as-woman analogies or feminist-reading aside, this story is beautiful for a really simple reason: Bess believes in her faith and we see how she acts because of that faith.
I’m surprised there hasn’t been more “outrage” from religious people (instead of feminist theorists); this movie is obscene in all the best ways — it’s so easy to demonstrate faith when it’s conventional or agreed upon by people, not just a god. It’s extremely difficult to follow what you believe your god is telling you to break the waves of your community — like Abraham being told to sacrifice his first-born.
And for anyone who’s ambivalent about the dogmatism of the church Bess attends: visit either the congregation I grew up in (then out of), or any one of hundreds of fundamentalist-based fellowships, well, just about anywhere. The film is all the more affecting because Bess is a woman, someone who isn’t an outsider like the lepers in the Bible, but an actual member of a congregation, but a member whose only role is silence and internal faith. It’s all the more shocking and gorgeous a thing that Bess does so much to demonstrate her faith.
Or, in other words: she walks the walk, and don’t just talk the talk.
Over and out.
I loved this film. Cried a lot toward the end. I think the misogynist claims are a little silly, but to each their own.
I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
props to anthony for his comments…awsome insight with Abraham. I believe the reason there are not a lot of religious outrage over this movie is because most religious people don’t know about it.
i loved this movie one of Von trier’s best movies
Though I haven’t seen it in ages, I liked this movie quite a bit, but as a study of misguided obsession rather than one about ultimate “true love”, as Trier’s self-assessment insists. Bess is as delusional as Travis Bickle or Max Renn: self-destructive and nowhere near a social group prepared to give her the kind of proper support she needs…scary and ultimately tragic. Still, agreed, heartbreaking.
My reaction is similar to Anthony’s, although Bess’ feels called to not only “break the waves” of her community, but of God’s laws as well—something that Abraham was also called to do. What happens when God calls you to do something against His commandments? This is something that I believe Kierkegaard touched on in his book, Fear and Trembling, and in Kierkegaard’s works he sets up certain stages of existence: the carnal, ethical and spiritual. From what I recall the spiritual involves a passionate committment—to the extent that one to live out one’s beliefs, even to the point of death (as Bess does). Moreover, a passionate committment is required precisely because what is asked of the individual is often irrational. In other words, faith (specifically the Christian faith, for Kierkegaard) is not primarily an intellectual endeavor—but one that involves actions, how one lives one’s life. The film perfects captures these ideas, imo.
I’m a Christian who is very sympathetic to Kierkegaard’s ideas, so I loved this film (despite the fact that there were many scenes that were hard to watch).
I’m curious to know how sympathetic von Trier is to Kierkegaard’s ideas. I don’t think he’s a Christian, so I suspect that he wasn’t making the film in support of Kikerkegaard’s ideas.
@Jazzaloha + anyone else who cares
From what I’ve read, Von Trier was raised in a nudist free-thinking anti-nearly everything including religion family; his rebellion was finding religion, but probably not in a way you or I understand.
I really doubt Von Trier is mocking anything; this is one of the most serious things I’ve ever held in my hands (ie. the dvd case).
The case for a Kierkegaardian “religious” stage applies, too, to artists, I’d say. From that angle, VT is obviously sympathetic. As for Bess: what she endures is horrifying, but she never is foisted to it — it’s all her choice.
The miracle of Christianity and other religions (and nearly any beautiful thing in the world) is that the acceptance of it is a gift, not required, but submitted to anyway.
I’m not religious, though I know too much for my britches about religion; were I, say, a Christian, I’d only hope to be as brave as someone like Bess. Sexual stuff and weird glass-breaking bearded guys aside, no movie (even something like Ordet, which shows all the sides, not just one point of view of a single character) transmits that holiness of devotion. VT’s personal life, if this is the product of his mind, should make not at all any difference.
to Ben Simington
your interpretation of the film is interesting but how does that explain the end of the movie?