At Random

Breaking the Waves (1996)

Directed by Lars von Trier

Well, I spun myself around the video store, closed my eyes and chose "At Random": I marched right into the video store, closed my eyes and grabbed "Breaking the Waves" off the shelf. People in my neighborhood video store are starting to wonder what the deal is with me. Anyway, this was an interesting little film, if you could get past the occasional out of focus shot and Emily Watson, the lead character, looking directly into the camera. I had a pretty difficult time in the beginning understanding some of the dialogue... accents!!! But once I got used to it, it wasn't a real problem. But enough about me.

Emily Watson plays Bess, a women who marries an outsider (not from her village). She's a little touched in the head and exhibits an innocence reminiscent of a little girl. All the people in the town are extremely devoted religious people, who don't actually accept her new husband Jan (pronounced Yon). Bess prays a lot. Well actually, she "talks" to God. She performs both parts: looking up when she's Bess and looking down when God talks to her. Kind of like hanging out with the "Hollywood Outsider" geeks when they start quoting movie lines. She "talks" about being good and devoted and strong.

Bess and Jan are really enjoying themselves. So much so, that it should have been called "Breaking the Cherry". They have a lot of sex. And it isn't even "sexy" sex. It was disgusting I-need-a-shower-after-looking-at-these-sex-scenes sex. Well, I don't have to tell you, you've been there. But the honeymoon is soon over when Jan needs to return to work on the oil rig. Bess is finding it difficult to separate from her husband. Which is an understatement. She really goes ballistic. I haven't seen someone so out of control since "The Beatles" landed in America. As he's taking off in a helicopter, Bess runs up, grabs the copter's door and pulls it open. This is a little over the top, even for her character.

Bess has a good friend, her sister-in-law who was married to her now deceased brother. We find out that Bess was committed to an institution following her brother's death. Bess starts "talking to God". Here's where the predictability comes into play. Bess asks God to send Jan home. Evidently, Bess never heard any of those Genie jokes. You know, the ones where the Genie gives you three wishes: "I'd like a little head," abracadabra, you're Beatlejuice on the "Howard Stern Show"! She really should have clarified things.

Hey, who knew? After all, you've been told "God knows all" about a billion times, who would've thunk it? So, of course, there's an accident on the oil rig, and Jan gets injured. God: "Hey, you have him back, right?" Well, Bess "realizes" that she did this to Jan. She figures that because of her selfishness Jan was injured. He is in really bad shape, too. Paralyzed with a ventilator to help him breathe. Jan is hyped up on drugs and is not thinking straight. He starts to use his condition to manipulate Bess, and she is so in love, so controlled by her religious beliefs that she is willing to do anything for him.

Since he can no longer perform disgusting looking sex acts on her, he asks her to have sex with other men to help keep him alive. Every time his condition worsens, Bess shags some stranger, and Jan gets better! Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, that's what I always say. But the kill-joys that the villagers and family are, they want her to stop her slutty behavior. So what happens? All I can say is that Bess makes the ultimate sacrifice with amazing results. I made sure my wife took notes. After all, I want to LIVE.

"Breaking the Waves" is the feel good, anti-religion movie of the year (1996). It kind of shows you the pitfalls of organized religion, how people can be manipulated by their faith... but then it turns around and WHAM! Praise the Lord!!! ($5.00 Rating)

Edd Rockis - copyright 2002

At Random