Breaking the Waves (1996)

Lars Von Trier directs Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård and Katrin Cartlidge in this arthouse drama where a sheltered young woman, who believes she speaks to God, marries a worldly oil worker whom after a debilitating accident asks her to start sleeping with other men.

I have never been Von Trier’s biggest fan. He loves the naughty shock just far too much. Cruel rather than transgressive. Whether you approach him as provocateur or prankster, his movies have a cold, clinical distance that I struggle to connect to. He’s a formalist as much as an enfant terribles, Breaking The Waves contains some of his most wholegrain gambles. The chapter breaks are little marvels – on the nose selections of Seventies glam rock play over moving oil paintings – which punctuate the dour tragedy. The imagery is processed to drain all the vivacity from the shots. Film converted to video and then back to film – giving the whole project the feel of a faded Kodak photo found in a charity shop book… underlit, candid and important to someone once. Yet what truly elevates this above Von Trier’s usual experimentation and irritation is Watson superlative debut performance. The fanatical mischief on her face when she communes with God, the frailty when she stumbles unprepared into the world of men’s desires. One of the greatest pieces of screen acting.


Perfect Double Bill: Dancer In the Dark (2000)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here

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