Monday, January 13, 2014

Indie Review: Breaking the Waves (1996)



                                Like A Big Tidal 'Wave' That'll Hit You When It Is Over

                      Before I saw this film, I was actually quite nervous to see it. That is mainly because of one scene that had me shaking when I first saw the trailer. But then, I eventually braved the big storm so to speak, and got around to watching this masterpiece. This masterpiece, which I would say is one of the greatest films of all time, is known as Breaking the Waves.

                      Story:
                    Breaking the Waves is about a naïve Scotswoman named Bess McNeil (Emily Watson) who marries an oilman outside of her community named Jan (Stellan Skarsgard). When Jan goes away at work, he becomes paralyzed from the neck down after an accident. Since they are unable to make love, Jan then asks Bess to have sexual relations with another man. Bess is reluctant at first, but then eventually gives in, believing she is carrying out God's will and that by making love with other men, she can heal her husband.

                 What I Liked About It:
               One thing that I really liked about the film was just how subjective it is. For example, when Jan asks Bess to make love with another man because he can't, you can decide whether or not he is doing it because he wants to separate himself from Bess so she can move on and not cling to him, or even because he wants to channel his sexual fantasies through her. Plus, because Bess believes that she is doing God's bidding by listening to what Jan tells her to do, you can decide whether she really is or not. I also loved the masterful direction by Lars Von Trier. I liked how he used a hand held camera to make the film much more realistic and his use of color. Most of the film's main characters wear blue, which represents tranquility, much like the simple community Bess lives in, and a few male characters wear a jacket that is the color brown, which means safety and security, as those few are somewhat protective of Bess. Plus, towards the end, Bess dons the color red, which, *Possible Spoiler Alert*, means doom. Since the film is the 70's, I thought it was neat that Von Trier used rock music from that era into the soundtrack.

              Another thing that I really liked was the performance by Emily Watson. Watson really excels as the character of Bess, a simple woman who while optimistic and golden-hearted, has the mindset of a child as she would constantly throw tantrums and struggles to transition as a woman. She even talks to God as if he were an imaginary friend. After watching that performance, I don't think I could see anyone else playing this role as Watson is an absolute revelation. Watson's co-stars, including Stellan Skarsgard and Katrin Cartlidge, who played Bess' concerned sister Dodo, also excel as well.

               What I Didn't Like About It:
              Nothing.

               Consensus:
              Overall, Breaking the Waves is a masterful and original love drama that shows just what acts people would do out of love. Even if the film is somewhat of a fable, it is still very unique and the more I think about it, the more I love it. It can be hard to watch at times, but not always. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone I know, but I would say that this is, hands down, one of the greatest films I've ever seen.

Rating: 5/5