Breaking the Waves
This is the 1996 winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes FilmFestival, which is apparently the award Cannes voters give to the film they are the happiest to have survived. Anybody familiar with Danish director Lars Von Trier knows that his films do for emotional stability what Michael Jackson does for child care.
Poor Bess (Emily Watson) has virtually nothing going for her. She lives in a remote Scottish village populated by strict Protestant Calvinists. She's simple (i.e. "none too bright") and when she goes to church she responds in the voice of God to her own questions.
So when, out of nowhere, Bess happily marries an oil rigger named Jan (Stellan Skarsgard), Von Trier fans are wise to be suspicious -- they know their brief flirtation with happiness is going to be quickly punished with some serious torture. This torment is supposed to teach us that there is a heaven, though Von Trier seems to delight in graphically depicting the road to salvation as paved with misery and pain. Though I'll spare you the details, suffice to say that you won't be seeing "Breaking the Waves" action figures or Saturday morning cartoon spinoffs anytime soon.
Von Trier's so-called "test of faith" hardly proves convincing unless you're one of these people who knows the answer before the question is even asked. Von Trier knows the answer, which, as he reveals in the end, renders the very question disingenuous and this movie a complete waste of time.
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