Watched Aug 28, 2012
Ronan Doyle’s review:
Lars von Trier's scathing evisceration of religious morality is not surprising for its crushing sadness, nor for its sometime descent into uncomfortable anguish, but for its remarkable tenderness. This is the director who gave us the infamous controversy of unsimulated sex with The Idiots, the harrowingly candid sexual violence of Antichrist. Breaking the Waves is, to me, most remarkable for what it doesn't show, consigning the shock factor solely to the extraordinary performance of Emily Watson rather than representing it in explicit images. Von Trier chooses not to show us some of the awful things that happen to Bess for the very simple reason that he doesn't need to: Watson's eyes tell us everything. I cannot believe that this was her screen debut; here is one of the most fully realised portraits ever committed to film. Ever. I find myself struggling to decide whether this is my favourite von Trier: as an unashamed believer that cinema is first and foremost a visual medium, I am more inclined to favour the extraordinary images of Melancholia, yet even for Breaking the Waves' disadvantage aesthetically, it is such a complete tackling of its themes that it deserves the title more. Few films I have seen better expose the sheer hypocrisy of Godly pontification. Von Trier's is a brilliant story that manages to pull off even the most difficult of aspects—it takes a lot of skill to make a woman speaking to herself in the voice of God not look silly. A gut-wrenching tale that confidently yet never too provocatively challenges the dominant mores of religious society, Breaking the Waves has got to be its director's masterpiece.