Breaking the Waves (1996)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Melodrama, Romantic Drama, Erotic Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 13, 1996 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 153 min.  |   Countries - Denmark , France , Iceland , Netherlands , Norway , Sweden   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brendon Hanley

There was never any doubt that Lars von Trier could create an atmosphere in his films. The Element of Crime, Zentropa, and The Kingdom all proved that few filmmakers could fashion a visually distinctive world as well as von Trier; but with Breaking the Waves, he vaulted to the forefront of the serious filmmakers of the 1990s. It's a highly original, highly challenging story about love and faith featuring two remarkably difficult yet successful performances from the stars, Emily Watson (nominated for an Oscar in her screen debut ) and Stellan Skarsgård. Von Trier brings his unique visual style, here dominated by vertiginous hand-held camera movements that reportedly made some viewers physically ill, and makes it part of a complementary moral and spiritual complexity. The stylized documentary feel of von Trier's Dogma 95 film movement (though much praise for the grainy monochrome must go to noted German cinematographer Robby Müller) serves both what we are seeing and how closely we are drawn to the plight of the characters. So much is tackled here, with such a commingling of romantic vision and postmodern technique, that it seems almost impossible to relate this visionary yet perversely old-fashioned movie to other movies of its time. It has the sweep and eloquence of a grand opera, and the emotional payoff to go with it.