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Archive for August 4th, 2014

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By Dean Treadway

I first encountered Lars Von Trier’s masterful Breaking the Waves in an unusual way: it had just been nominated for a slew of Golden Globe awards (including the top three Drama awards, yet it would only garner one eventual and clearly unavoidable Oscar nod), in a year dominated by indie-flavored movies like Fargo and The English Patient. When the nominations came down, I was dumbstruck, because Breaking the Waves had not yet played in my hometown, but had definitely made a splash in Cannes earlier that year. I wasn’t even able to make it out to the theaters to see it that year, it was so low on my priorities. I was a fool.

When I finally did see it, I was doubly dumbstruck,  and could have kicked myself for not catching it on the big screen when I had the chance. I found it to be a complete masterpiece–to the point where it still remains the most recent entrant into my personal top twenty films of all time. As overwhelming as it is cinematically, with Von Trier and cinematographer Robby Muller working at their absolute apex, it was Emily Watson that impressed, and still impresses me most. Her Bess, so loving and trustful and completely devoted, was unlike any fictional character I had ever seen. She felt like a wide-eyed child, but yet she was very much an alluring woman, with a woman’s fullest desires, but perhaps without the wherewithal to understand those drives, except to say that she knew she totally had to follow them to what she saw as their natural end. She is like a strong but tiny bird one wants to help survive the cold outside. The fact that she had equal desires to be faithful to God and to her church complicated matters, especially since the church she follows (in early 70s Scotland, where the film is set) has a very dim view of women’s thoughts or contributions, except as earthly birth vessels. (more…)

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