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“If you were to ask me again to write a conclusion, instead of writing neurotic or psychotic, I might just write a word like good.”

—Dr. Richardson, at the inquest in Breaking the Waves

The point of the film Breaking the Waves is that religion breeds hypocrisy, which isn’t good. And sex and rock n’ roll aren’t bad. And God doesn’t actually talk to people. So if he starts telling you to do things, especially if these things are destructive to you or others, get a second opinion.

In Scotland, in the highlands, by the coast.
Green hills, cold water, backwards people.

The director, Lars Von Trier, must have told his actors and actresses not to wash or brush their hair, and to wear their own clothes on the set. It was experimental.

“You describe the deceased as an immature, unstable person who, due to the trauma of her husband’s illness, gave way to a perverse form of sexuality.”
–the barrister, to Dr. Richardson

Bess gets married. Her handsome husband works on an oil rig. He receives a blow to the head, on the rig, and while still mentally affected from the accident, he encourages Bess to have sex with other men.

Bess makes a complicated deal with God: if she has sex with other men, her husband will survive his injury and be okay. She feels it’s her fault that he got hurt, so if she gets hurt worse, then her husband will benefit.

A lot of twisted religious stuff going down in the little Scottish church on the hillside.
With a sadistic minister and creepy, evil elders.


Bess goes out on a skiff to a tanker to turn tricks, and on the way, she is talking to God. She comes back on a stretcher, brutally beaten and raped. She dies a little later in her best friend’s arms.

Katrin Cartlidge plays the best friend/sister-in-law. Emily Watson has the lead (Bess). I prefer to watch Katrin—just a personal preference for the angular, long-nosed type, the lass with small teeth. I’ve seen Cartlidge in several films, never as the lead. Mike Leigh loves her. Me, too. (I just read on Wikipedia that she died. In real life. I did not know that.)

Emily Watson mugs too much for me. She’s the Jim Carey of the British Isles. And Stellan Skarsgard, who plays the husband. Is he seven feet tall? Maybe everyone else in the film is just short. He wears a ratty old shearling coat in every scene. This is lovely.

Good things wait for us in the afterlife.

Just ask Elton John, for no particular reason.