Breaking the Waves

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Director/Writer: Lars von Trier
Director of Photography: Robby Müller
Editor: Anders Refn
Music: Ray Williams
Production Designer: Karl Juliusson
Producers: Vibeke Windelv and Peter Aalbaek Jensen
October Films; NR; 158 minutes
Release: 11/96
Cast: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Adrian Rawlins, Katrin Cartlidge and Udo Kier

This exceptional, wrenching film heralds the big-screen debut of Watson whose raw, passionate performance will likely be the first of many starring roles. At the same time spiritual and perverse, Breaking the Waves, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of a young woman's struggle with religion and carnality. Set in a remote Scottish village in 1972, virginal Bess (Watson) shocks her tight-knit Calvinist community when she marries Jan (Skarsgard), a lustful, hulking oil rigger who introduces her to the wonders of sex. In her conversations with God, Bess expresses guilt that she loves too much and takes too much pleasure in sex and fears she'll be punished for it, and, apparently, she is. Jan returns from the sea paralyzed and impotent. He tells Bess that he will die unless she helps him by having sex with strangers and reporting back to him in great detail. The most talked-about film of 1996 not only for its fury, but also for its restless portrayal of its characters' anxiety and passion.

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