Thursday 30 December 2004

Breaking the Waves (1996) - ickleReview (DVD)

Cheery Lars von Trier movie...erm, maybe not. Emily Watson plays Bess McNeill, an innocent Scottish lassie living in an obscure island community with a very strict - is it Presbyterian? - church, which does not allow women to speak during the service or attend funerals. When she marries Jan (Stellan Skarsgard), she is still a virgin. She is emotionally deprived and cannot cope with the separation when Jan must return to work on the oil rig. She prays to God to bring him home. Perhaps she wishes she hadn't.

Watson is outstanding as Bess. There is a scene where a light glistens in her eyes, making her look possessed by an angel. She looks so innocent and pure and has such a malleable face that a smile is only millimetres from a frown. The intertitles give the movie (and the audience) breathing space, appearing almost like paintings in a trompe l'oeil. Do not expect to be uplifted by this movie; although von Trier manages to find a strage beauty in its desolation. He tells a modern day version of the plight of Mary Magdalene. His lens is dark. The hand-held Dogme camera records the claustrophobic isolation of faith.

Nugget: perhaps you shouldn't watch this if you're feeling suicidal.

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