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4.1 out of 5 stars68
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 14 December 2014
This review is of the new Artificial Eye blu-ray release, although I should point out that I rate the film itself as an astonishing piece of work and an unreserved five stars. This is one of the very rare cases where a blu-ray could be said to look *too* good. Breaking The Waves was originally shot on film, transferred to video and then back to film, which gave a characteristic low-res, washed-out effect. From what I can see, the HD transfer here has been taken directly from the source film - although some of the indoor scenes are very grainy, the transfer is sharp with a natural film look, and the tell-tale pre-HD video conversion artifacts are completely absent. The colours are still muted, which I assume has been achieved via digital grading. The transfer is also free from dirt and scratches which were present in the original Pathe DVD release. Whether Artificial Eye should have retained the intermediate video stage is debatable - the degradation of picture quality would certainly have been far more pronounced in HD. Personally I prefer the "straight" transfer used here. For a comparison, the deleted scenes appear to have been taken from a print with the original video conversion, as does the Pathe DVD. The HD transfer is 1080p 24fps, and features a DTS-MA 5.1 audio track. The blu-ray has some interesting extras including the aforementioned deleted scenes, commentaries and an Emily Watson screen test.
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on 25 October 2006
I saw this movie for the first time tonight, and I am completely blown away. I had it on while I was doing other things so missed bits of it, but it gradually wound its way into my consciousness and I sat, transfixed, through the remainder, and I *will* be getting this for my collection.

I don't know directors. I don't know cinematography. I'd never heard of this film before tonight, but what I do know is that this is a masterpiece. It was as powerful and touching as it was brutal and raw.

Bess' conversations with God are believable in a way that I would never have credited. Her fragility and unwavering goodness and devotion to both God and her husband worked so well that I can't even begin to describe it. Someone said that it had a disappointing ending, but I can only think that they either missed the point or left before it was finished.

While the elders of the church and village are consigning Bess to eternal damnation and hell, the heavens ring out their approval of Bess and their acceptance of her sacrifices, of her love, and a miracle is born.

This film is, in itself, a miracle. The acting was superb throughout. The method of filming added to the power of the story. It is not a pleasant film. It will definitely not be for everyone. It's a love story that batters you to exhaustion, and when it finally releases you, you are grateful for the battering, for the opportunity to have experienced Bess in all her beauty and innocence and certainty.

The only films I can think of that even come close to the brilliance and brutality of this one are Pulp Fiction and Snatch, but this one goes further; it lacks the slickness of Hollywood. That isn't a criticism, either... it's a benefit.

I can't recommend it highly enough, but you will need guts to watch it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 November 2012
To have divided audiences so massively indicates the power of this astonishing film. Coming to it with no knowledge of the subject matter but some of the "Dogma" school of film production I was swept away by it's ambition and extraordinary accomplishment. I have never seen or read any work which deals so profoundly with the nature of religious faith. The attack made on the film for it's misogyny is understandable but I think misguided. Von Trier is not advocating or promoting such behaviour "simply" examining and presenting an admittedly extreme tale of "the divine fool's" (a classic literary and cultural archetype) relationship with the divine (see Dryer's Joan of Arc and even The Passion of The Christ). The performances are outstanding with Emily Watson both radiant and totally captivating in the epic lead role. No - this film is not for everyone! But for those who wish to see how cinema can transcend the obvious, the petty and the entertainingly inconsequential and grapple with subject matter of such staggering complexity and profundity - well "Breaking the Waves" is certainly for you. No, I don't believe the film's premise nor celebrate the "heroine's" life-choice - but I'm humbled by the power of Von Trier's vision, passion and magisterial artistry. For those who found the experience "boring", "offensive", & "rubbish" - well, there's always Eastenders and Come Dancing!
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on 12 January 2012
I think this film is amazing. Anyone who reads Von Trier's work as misogynistic is simply misreading the film (in my humble opinion). If a film depicts violence against women that doesn't make it misogynistic. The same criticism was leveled as David Lynch for 'Blue Velvet'. There is violence against women in the world. There is no need for Von Trier's to ignore it. If there is something as simple as a 'message' in this film (I don't believe there is one simple interpretation) then I think it involves redemption and sacrifice not misogyny. Bess McNeil is the hero of the film not the victim. An amazing and deeply affecting film.
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on 9 November 2009
I watched Breaking the Waves last night. This is a long (around two and a half hours) and slow film about a woman (Bess) who lives on a Scottish island, that marries a (Dutch I think) oil rig worker. He then has an accident and is more or less paralysed. His wife has conversations with herself (and in her mind with God), in an effort to find out what she can do to make him better. Sounds boring? Well it is, except...

This is the most depressing film I've watched for a long, long time. From the quality of the cinematography and the technical bits and bob that go with it, to the fact that it's raining in every other scene, this film feels like one long, deep decent into misery; a real view into the void. And that's before I even consider the storyline. If Thomas Hardy had written film scripts, this would be worthy of his name. One of the reasons I personally watch films is that they can, if they're good, enable me to experience emotions, feelings and situations that I wouldn't normally have the chance to (or want to be in the situation to) personally experience. This was one of those films, which considering it didn't have any explosions, spaceships or aliens in it, is quite remarkable. Watching someone with (in modern speak) mental distress who's willing to do absolutely anything to help someone they love, is a truly heartbreaking experience. You know it's probably not going to end well but there's nothing you can do about it, except continue to observe in a voyeuristic and entirely impotent way. You'll want to reach out and make a difference to Bess, to help her understand what's really going on, a difference that the well-meaning but ineffective characters in the film seem unable to make for her. This film doesn't present anyone in a good light and with the exception of Bess I felt they all realised it, but with the social and religious restrictions they each chose to observe they were unable or unwilling to act. This film has a lot of religious overtones but it's not The Omen, it's far more subtle and real world than that. It also contains a lot of subtle, social comment about how we treat people with mental distress. You may want to slash your wrists after you watch this, such is the frustration of watching someone's life disintegrating in front of your eyes, except you won't bother as it will feel too pointless to do so. You will need to watch the very last scene to enable you to go on with life tomorrow. This film makes life seem pointless and I felt frustrated and angry with the world after watching it. (Even more than I normally do.) I would say that most people who watch this film won't enjoy it in the let's get pissed and have a laugh kind of way, but they will be glad they watched it. If only we could all be with one person in life that loved us so much.
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on 3 January 2002
The other reviews cover the story outline, so all I will say is that I was unable to talk about the film for days after; unable to leave the cinema for ages after the film & had to shut myself in the toilets until I could stop crying. It is beautiful, haunting, poignant, effective, artfully shot, the handheld render you as feeling part of the film, part of the characters, identifying with Bess, even if normally you would have nothing in common with her.
The surreal ending is not out of context, but enhances the magic created throughout the film, with each chapter opening as if on a painted landscape. There is nothing more to say - it is the film that has most affected me - and will forever continue to do so.
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on 3 December 2009
This was a great movie, it was money well spent! It moved slow at first but the storyline kept me interested. The acting was good. The cinematography was a little poor in the beginning scenes during the wedding. I actually got a little dizzy watching the camera move around the room, but it improved soon into the movie. I believe Bess was mentally disabled and it was sad to see the lengths she went to really believing she would help her husband. For the topic of what she was doing, it was done tastfully, which is a huge difference from the frank and sometimes perverse sexuality shown in many US films. I would recommend it if you are a fan of any of the lead actors or if you just want an entertaining movie.
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on 16 April 2006
This was the film that gave von Trier his much-deserved international breakthrough and revealed him as one of the most brilliant and uncompromising filmmakers of his generation. Breaking The Waves is set in one of the extremely religious and oppressive communities in the north-west of Scotland, where life is dominated by the ascetic and strictly protestant Free Church. The film centres on Bess (Emily Watson), a luminous, naïve and emotionally immature young woman who marries an outsider - the Swedish Jan (Stellan Skarsgård) who works on an oil platform. The idyll is shattered when Jan has an accident on the rig, which leaves him paralysed. Determined that his incapacity should not ruin his new bride's life, he encourages - and eventually manipulates - her to take a lover. Bess' naïve Christian faith and devotion to her husband result in tragic consequences. The plot of this film is highly melodramatic but is balanced by the way the film is shot (on Digital Video - one of the first films to do so), in a realistic documentary-style way which, coupled with the outstanding performances, not only make the film work, but give it an almost unbearable intensity. This is by no means an easy film to watch, but is a true work of genius and will stay with you long after you've seen it.
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on 5 November 2006
This is an amazing film!

I live where this film was made and the portrayal of the Church and the Elders is absolutely spot on. All the characters were brilliantly cast but Emily Watson was amazing as Bess.

I have never watched a film which made me feel the way this one did.

Everything about this film is fantastic! I can't really say much more than that!
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on 16 June 2003
Breaking the Waves is likely to be the most moving film you will ever see. It is not a mainstream film but its success didn't go unnoticed in Hollywood studios; this is one of the 'marginal' films produced in the mid 1990s, which influenced mainstream cinema's attempts to 'play around' with film narrative. A must-see for those who like films to be a little different. Director Lars Von Trier ('The Idiots' & 'Dancer in the Dark') was co-founder of the 'Dogme'film movement, which is also well worth investigating for anyone with a passion for film.
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