Breaking the Waves  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Breaking the Waves is a 1996 film, directed by Lars von Trier and starring Emily Watson. Set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1970s, it tells the story of an unusual woman, Bess McNeill, and of the love she has for Jan, her husband. The film is the first film in von Trier's 'Golden Heart Trilogy' which also includes The Idiots (1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000).

The film is set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1970s, and tells the story of Bess McNeill, who marries oil rig worker Jan, despite the apprehensions of her community and Calvinist church. Breaking the Waves won the "grand prize" at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, and three awards at the 1996 European Film Awards including: Film of the Year, International Film Journalists Award, and European Actress of the Year (Watson). Emily Watson was nominated for the 1996 Academy Award for Best Actress, and the 1997 British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for best actress.

Plot outline

Breaking the Waves tells the story of Bess McNeill, who marries oil rig worker Jan, despite the apprehensions of her community and Calvinist church. She is somewhat simple, chidlike and has difficulty living without him when he is away on the oil platform. She prays for his return, and when he returns paralysed after an industrial accident, she believes it is her fault. No longer able to make love, Jan urges her to find and have sex with other men, and then tell him the details. She slowly begins to believe that what she is doing is the wish of God.

Dogme 95 usage

The film shows influences of the Dogme 95 movement, of which von Trier is a founding member. Though often referred as a Dogme 95 film, it violates several of the Dogme 95 rules, i.e. Dogme 95 emphasizes the use of real locations; but whilst most of the locations in Breaking the Waves are deceptively realistic, they were in fact constructed in a studio. Additionally the film is set in the past, against the Dogme "now" rule and music is used to introduce each chapter.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Breaking the Waves" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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