1996 / 159m - Denmark
Breaking the Waves poster


July 23, 2021


This was the big breakthrough film for Lars von Trier. A dark, relentless drama with strong religious overtones. While undoubtably impressive in some ways, the drama here is pretty hit or miss, and if you fail to care about the two leads then the 160-minute runtime is going to be quite the challenge.

Bess is a somewhat simple-minded religious girl, Jan a man of the world. The two find each other and get married, but when Jan needs to leave again to pick up his job at an oil rig, Bess struggles to let him go. She prays to God to return Jan to her, then Jan suffers a near-lethal accident that leaves him disabled in bed.

The once so unique "handheld"/dogme camera work has become a staple of the genre, performances are strong, but the characters lack depth and the ever-spiraling drama gets a little tedious. I never really cared enough about the characters and their tribulations to make the drama work, so in the end this was just a mediocre von Trier for me.