'Breaking the Waves' is a good film, but not a Great one. I had heard only brief recommendations prior to seeing it, although I
admit that a fellow Tangenteer's opinion that it was one of the best films he had ever seen raised my levels of expectations to
heights that, perhaps, no film on that particular night was ever going to attain.
That it is a good film, though, is beyond argument. That it is a film which I actively thought about whilst and after watching is
also beyond argument. But then, when the film was running, there was plenty of opportunity to think, given it's length and
low-key delivery. The low key delivery was one which I welcomed for sure; the feeling that, with the yellow filter colouring
and hand held camera, one was watching a home movie from the depths of the '70s was a delight. The length, however, was
something which I found to be overly oppressive; intentional perhaps, but on that night not what I was willing to deal with. It also
left me feeling that 'Breaking The Waves' was little more than a Religious Epic, and Religious Epic has never been my favourite
One could say that it is to the film's credit, however, that it takes a Religious theme and plays
with the rules, but again, I am unsure if this is strictly the case. Certainly it is a film which addresses squarely the conceptual
clash of Organised Religion versus Personal Religion (or spirituality if you'd rather) in a straight forward manner, and although
it makes no apologies for coming down wholeheartedly on the side of the latter, it seems that this very outcome is the expected
and accepted point of view of the audience (inevitably middle classes with Interests In The Arts, or students of a similar bent); that
the uniquely Personal nature of spiritual quest should be so heavily remarked upon by the clumsiness of the final scene was surely
beyond a joke.
Nor did I find the characters to be of remarkable interest, which perhaps is no great criticism given the fact that the film's
strongest point was it's depiction of the nature of the everyday; the fact that everyday occurrences in any community are
filled with variations of beauty, sadness and peculiarity that are often left unseen or unremarked upon. There were few, if
any characters whom one was intended to feel anything approaching sympathy for, except for Bess perhaps, who, played
by Emily Watson merely filled me with a vague irritation. Perhaps that was the point, but if so I think I missed it. Perhaps I wasn't
being macroanalytical enough about it.
However, if we must be macroanalytical about things, a detail which I couldn't get out of my mind:
the ring pulls on the cans of Tartan were the 'modern' non-removable type, whereas they ought to have been the 'old' type
that you could pull completely off, and then break into two, using the flexible piece of metal to flick the finger ring across the
classroom. Call me a can-spotter if you will, but such things are important when trying to present a 'period' piece, yes/no?
I'll give it a 'good but not great' eight, Johnny.
Alistair Fitchett. January 1997