~Breaking the Waves~
When watching a few other Lars Von Trier movies, (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville,) I almost felt as though I was receiving some sort of punishment, like a higher power was striking me with divine discomfort, holding me personally responsible for the ugliness of the films, (for I truly enjoyed them both.) Breaking the Waves, to me, was much less shocking and exploitative than the others and with a much subtler delivery. It was released in 1996, several years earlier than the other two films, so maybe Von Trier just hadn't finely tuned his ability to provoke.
However, Breaking the Waves, with it's religious subtext and a pristine conscience toward faith and it's ability to counter the scowls of the worldly, was superior to the two later films.
The basic premise of the film is that a naive girl brought up in an orthodox village decides to marry an outsider with whom she falls in love. The simple girl, named Bess, and her newfound husband Jan discover the joys of intimate love and love-making. But in an industrial accident Jan is paralyzed, and Bess is left to take care of him. One day Jan requests that she begin making love to other men and telling him about her encounters, that he will be happier and his condition will improve if she complies.
A compelling attribute of Bess' faith is the way she prays. She delivers her part of the prayer in a small, childlike voice, and replies in the voice of God, patriarchal and strong. When she asks God about Jan's request, the powerful voice exclaims, "I have commanded that you honor your husband."
So Bess begins making uneasy love to men that she meets. Many of the scenes are difficult to watch because you feel terribly for her. Through her faith though she begins to see progress in Jan's condition. Her demeanor becomes like a professional prostitute as the movie runs on, seeing every man as an opportunity to help the condition of her beloved husband improve. But as she sees him growing stronger, the community around her begins to persecute her and deny her privileges, and children even begin throwing rocks at her and calling her "tart" and "whore." After a bad sexual encounter upon an oil tanker she stumbles up to the church and collapses. When the priest, the supposed example of Christianity, sees who it is who has fainted, he walks along as if he had never seen her.
It was a great movie Tom. It really was. 5 stars in my book. I'll tell you how it ends if you'd like. Let me know.
"Von Trier makes us wonder what kind of operas Nietzsche might've written."