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Breaking the Waves (1996)

Emily Watson , Stellan Skarsgård , Lars von Trier  |  R |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr, Adrian Rawlins
  • Directors: Lars von Trier
  • Writers: Lars von Trier, David Pirie, Peter Asmussen
  • Producers: Axel Helgeland, Lars Jönsson, Marianne Slot, Peter Aalbæk Jensen
  • Format: Color, Letterboxed, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Artisan Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 25, 2000
  • Run Time: 159 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305899681
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,934 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Breaking the Waves" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

When Bess, a naive young woman, marries Jan, a handsome oil-rig worker, she experiences passion and physical pleasure that she never imagined. Their bliss is cut short when an accident on the rig leaves Jan paralyzed. Believing he will never make love to Bess again, he tells her to take other lovers, convincing her that this will help his recovery. Bess is sent spiraling into a world of dark emotions she cannot understand

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We do not need bells in our church to worship God. September 25, 2004
This is the story about love. Everyday we experience this breathtaking emotion with both inanimate objects and with other souls. It is when we finally find true love that nothing else in the world seems worthy or good. We work as hard as we can to continue this warmth that we feel in our hearts when true love exists, and sometimes that means going to a level we never thought imaginable.

That is the central theme of Lars von Trier's epic, Breaking the Waves. Love has no boundaries as we watch Bess do everything possible (and more) to keep the relationship with her husband together during the roughest of times. Emily Watson controls the character Bess giving her best performance ever. The emotion and serenity that is felt, not only behind the character of Bess, but also behind Watson's eyes is phenomenal. It is not often that Hollywood is able to capture this sort of raw emotion, but Watson pulled it off with incredible talent.

Outside of Watson's character, there is the story. Lars von Trier does a spectacular job of continually building on the foundation that he has begun. Watson is his foundation, and Trier builds this amazing world around her. In this film, everything from talking to God to reverberating stories to her husband while he is in the hospital only helps build the story to even higher heights. I will be honest; I shed tears at the end of this film. It will pull at every heart muscle that you have and really make you look at your significant other and truly feel the power of love.

This is a love story, but not like one we have seen in a very long time. I don't think we will see anything similar to this again. It will be hard for Hollywood to emulate such raw talent, groundbreaking direction, and life-changing story.

Thank you Lars von Trier for your imagination and passion for love.

Grade: ***** out of *****
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible, deeply moving experience February 11, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
"Breaking the Waves" is one of the best films I've ever seen -- I have added it to my list of top ten best films ever (right up there with "Citizen Kane" and "The Piano"). It is not for the faint of heart, however, nor is it recommended for those who like their movie endings tied up neatly. The film has stayed with me and continues to raise questions about the nature of faith, the power of religion and community, and the meaning of love. Emily Watson's performance was pure and sincere -- she should have won an Oscar. The breaks between "chapters" filled with great music and breathtaking scenery were an inspired device to give the viewer a necessary breather, a moment to allow the previous scenes to sink in. This movie will stay with me for a very long time. If you liked "The Piano" or "The Rapture," then I strongly recommend "Breaking the Waves."
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HEARTBREAKING March 26, 2001
By EriKa
Format:VHS Tape
Lars von Trier is not known for conventional films. If anything his films court controversy and push the envelope on what is acceptable and appropriate in films. Some of his Danish works, which are less well known, like a strange film called Idioterne, are positively shocking. Breaking the Waves is more mainstream but by no means conventional. The story tells of a naïve and mentally unstable young woman named Bess MacNeil (played startlingly by Emily Watson). She has been reared in a very conservative and religious community (women are not allowed to speak in the church, people are judged harshly by the church, and they can easily be shunned for their activities. Outsiders are not easily welcomed into this community). Bess marries an oil rig worker named Jan (an excellent Stellan Skarsgard. He is an outsider to the community and is not easily accepted. The beginning of the film tells the tale of their marriage, Bess's exploration of sexuality with her new husband, Bess's childlike innocence and mental instability... and how she copes (or does not cope) with Jan's frequent absences. Eventually Jan succumbs to an accident on the oil rig and has to return home. He is hospitalised and is paralysed, and it is thought that he will be paralysed for life. He cannot bear to see his wife especially knowing that he cannot perform his husbandly duties, so he convinces her to go out and experiment sexually with as many men as she can. He convinces her that this helps him when really he is trying to do it for her. Not to add that he is doped up on pain medication. Soon the town learns of her activities and she is shunned from the society. The end is heartbreaking and the ironic twist at the end is painful. Lars von Trier cannot be faulted for his creative vision, despite what you make think of this film or his other films. Most of them are love them or hate them ventures, and Breaking the Waves is no exception.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Uncut... October 10, 2005
Sorry to disappoint customers here, but this version of the film is not uncut. It's actually cut even more than the Artisan release available in the U.S., which runs 159 minutes. This version runs 155 minutes. Several scenes are missing altogether.

The reason why this is shortened is because of the strict censorship rules in South Korea. Why this DVD has been advertised as uncut here and on Ebay remains a mystery. The cuts don't necessarily hurt the story, but then again there are the staunch filmgoers (like me) who prefer to see the film the way a director intended it.

It also kind of hurts that there are no English subtitles on this DVD, and it plays without sound. The audio track on your DVD player has to be changed to hear anything.

At this point (and after more than a little research) I have to conclude that there is no way to get an uncut version of "Breaking The Waves" in the U.S. There are uncut versions available in Europe but they do not play on our DVD players. The release from Artisan, which is standard here, is pretty close. From what I've read, there is only a few seconds of nudity removed.

So for us poor U.S. filmgoers, I think the bare-bones Artisan release is the only way to go. Maybe we'll get a real release, someday...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get through it.
I like his other movies but the format of this one killed the experience for me. The hand-held cameras, deliberate under-acting, TV-style editing, and lack of soundtrack made it... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A directorial high-wire act
Though it's a very heavy movie, I recommend seeing it more than once. I find this to be true of many Lars von Trier films - especially Dancer in the Dark and Dogville. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Carl Kelsch
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great movie well done by Criterion.
Published 2 months ago by PJB
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, but excellent
A powerful but disturbing film in which Emily Watson turns in a masterful performance. In an age where fundamentalism still rules for many in Christianity, Islam, and other faiths,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr. Trout
4.0 out of 5 stars and really liked Watson's acting
I happened to catch this film several years ago on cable, and really liked Watson's acting. I've since seen her
in other movies, but this, her first I believe, is a tour de... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Paco
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful romantic drama
There may be spoilers.

This is another controversial film by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier who also co-wrote the screenplay. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Oleson
4.0 out of 5 stars What a rollicking theatrical experience, a true 90's gem lives on...
The 90's did many thing to us. They bought us closer to long hair of the English renegades, to that feeling of Bittersweet Symphony playing in our earphones as we walk down the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Kanwar Anand
5.0 out of 5 stars Lars and Criterion
Get it. The old DVD's were a little hard to find. Here it is with all the bells and whistles. It's Great!
Published 4 months ago by Ryan Ladell
5.0 out of 5 stars Move Over Top 5!
It's not unusual for me to watch 10 or more movies per week, especially now that I'm retired. Been a true film fanatic all my life, so friends will ask me what my top 5 or 10 or... Read more
Published 6 months ago by JRH
2.0 out of 5 stars Horrific
Although fantastic acting...what a brutal, horrific, painful and unpleasant thing to watch from beginning to end. Just not my thing. Read more
Published 6 months ago by buttercup
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