Breaking the Waves

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Released 1996

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Movie Summary

Director:
Lars von Trier
Released:
1996
Rating:
R
In a small and religious coastal town, a simple, devoutly religious Scottish woman, Bess McNeill (Emily Watson), finds a partner in an oil rig worker from Norway, Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgard). However, the relationship grows strained when Nyman breaks his neck in a horrific work accident on the rig and becomes paralyzed. Unable to perform sexually and suffering mentally from the accident as well, Jan convinces Bess to have sex with other men, which she comes to believe is God's work.

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Metacritic Score

  • 90

    The New York Times Elvis Mitchell

    A narrative path leading from the sincere to the ludicrous, and culminating in a final image of flabbergasting transcendance, gives Breaking the Waves its surprising power.

  • 90

    Variety

    Watson is a major find as Bess. Graced with delicate, expressive features, she gives an extraordinary performance.

  • 50

    Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan

    Shallow where it would be meaningful, demanding leaps of faith it has not earned, this film's marriage of arresting technique to empty thinking is not unique, only frustrating.

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Drama