Breaking the Waves (1996) is one of the greatest films ever made, and the magnum opus of Lars von Trier. Martin Scorsese and Roger Ebert each hailed it as one of the 10 Best films of its decade, with Ebert writing:
“Breaking the Waves” is emotionally and spiritually challenging, hammering at conventional morality with the belief that God not only sees all, but understands a great deal more than we give Him credit for.
… Not many movies like this get made, because not many filmmakers are so bold, angry and defiant. Like many truly spiritual films, it will offend the Pharisees. Here we have a story that forces us to take sides, to ask what really is right and wrong in a universe that seems harsh and indifferent. Is religious belief only a consolation for our inescapable destination in the grave? Or can faith give the power to triumph over death and evil? Bess knows.
I wrote in 2008:
I’ll leave you for today to just mention one last movie, standing in great contrast to the movies I’ve written about above. I won’t say too much about it, but that Breaking the Waves (1996, Emily Watson) I saw in the movie theater and became physically drained from the experience. Not so much an entertainment as an exercise, but like a good work out, this one pays off. It is for the most part a quite bleak film, with these very colorful mini-intermissions – about six – spread through as sort of chapter markers. The film is a unique vision of the making of a saint, and through the bleakness emerges finally at the end great joy. It is, as I now think about it, and I’ve thought about it many times – one will never forget this one – an alternate (and I’ll say a very alternate, without elaborating how at this time) telling of the story of Christ. No more about this now, except perhaps to understand the mood of it a little, the theme music (only in the end credits) is Bach, Siciliano from Sonata for Flute & Harpsichord in E flat major, BWV 1031 – a melancholy rendering of that performance, that is, as compared to a more flamboyant or whimsical version as some I just sampled on iTunes. [2016 Note: for trumpet and organ, not available on iTunes] If you ever do watch it, to get the full experience try to do it in one sitting with no more than one pause or so, which should be done at a mini-intermission. As I said, an exercise to watch it, 159 minutes.
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Availability: iTunes rental & purchase