Monday, September 19, 2005

Breaking the Waves

Breaking the Waves (1996) by Lars von Trier

I suppose that if I had read this script, I might have dismissed it.  The acting and direction make something of it that is unexpected.

Having watched Trainspotting a few weeks ago, I am grateful for Scottish scents that I can actually understand.

Bess is a simple girl who falls in love with an “outsider”.  It’s clear that Bess is an outsider herself.  She chastises herself in the Voice of God.  She’s mentally unstable and easily impressed.

Jan is an oil rig worker.  His worldly ways are fascinating to Bess and suspicious to her community.  When he is injured, Bess begins to blame herself.  She believes she asked God for it.

Her priest, doctor, and sister all tell her, in different ways, that she must “be there” for Lars.  Bess interprets this as an almost complete subjugation of her own identity into the needs of Lars.

Bess goes to the Doctor to prove her love for Lars, and the music playing is Elton John’s “Love Lies Bleeding”.  Heavy handed, maybe, but appropriate. She’s very confused.  Even though the doc rejects her, she tells Jan a tale as if she had gone through with her promise.

Her inner conflict grows and is compounded by her God Voice telling her that she is, more or less, Mary Magdalene.  As a side note, Bess (Emily Watson)’s nose twitch imitating a rabbit was worth the whole rest of the movie.  Niiiiice!!!

Is Jan’s life worth living?  That is a question posed shortly after his accident.  Does she stay alive for him?  Him for her?  Who’s in charge here?

In Bess’s mind, it is God’s will that she put her own soul at risk in order to “honor” the wishes of her husband.  The bargain she’s made with God is her Soul for Jan’s Life.  As Jan’s life deteriorates, so does her Soul.  

But, is her Faith enough to offset that trade?  Even with the threat of being Cast Out of the village?

I suppose, in the end, her faith and sacrifice is the miracle.

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