Breaking the Waves


(1996) ★★★

Sky Arts 1: Thursday 6 August, 9.00pm

In a repressively religious Hebridean community, Emily Watson’s happy marriage to Danish oil-rigger Stellan Skarsgaard is viewed with suspicion. She prays for his early return from sea and God sends him back with a broken neck. Drugged and paralysed, he urges her to take lovers so he can recapture their connubial bliss by proxy. The devout wife is shocked but believes her promiscuity will aid his recovery. Reasonable doctor Adrian Rawlins and concerned sister-in-law Katrin Cartlidge look on alarmed. Lars von Trier’s epic love story had many critics drooling. It’s hard to see why. Shot in widescreen with jerky hand-held cameras and using drained colours to evoke a sense of bleak immediacy, the story is set in the early 1970s to no sensible purpose. It is also overlong and feels as bloated as Ryan’s Daughter. Stylistically, then, it is less interesting than von Trier’s previous work, which includes the audacious Zentropa and the weird hospital TV series, The Kingdom. As in The Kingdom, von Trier equates simple-mindedness with saintliness and Emily Watson’s character is doomed to martyrdom. With the body of a woman and the mind of a child, she performs degrading sexual acts with purity of intent. It’s an interesting supposition on an intellectual level but emotionally the film is as austere as its setting. The acting, by the way, is exemplary. The sad thing is, this first part of von Trier’s so-called ‘Golden Hearts’ trilogy turned out to be the last halfway decent film he made. Breaking the Waves was followed by The Idiots and Dancer in the Dark. Then Dogville, and really downhill.

Certificate: 18
Duration: 153min

IMDB – Killer Joe

TMDB – Killer Joe

Rotten Tomatoes – Killer Joe

Other Showings Date & Time
Sky Arts 1 Monday, 10 August at 1:00AM
Sky Arts 1 Thursday, 13 August at 12:00AM