Breaking the Waves can make you queasy from its opening moments, when director Lars von Trier’s name appears with the title superimposed over it, the title card swaying gently on screen as if it were photographed at sea. The effect is less subtle on home video than it is on a big screen, where you’re not as aware of the edges of the frame, but the message is the same: suddenly, you’re adrift, unmoored, alone. Continue reading
Synecdoche, New York is a fascinating, thought-provoking film. Re-reading what I wrote about other films written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) I see that I’ve compared his work to origami pieces, and I still think that’s apt. You can lose yourself in their multifarious layers and folds — and sometimes, when imprecise fingers and thumbs finish modeling the creature, the thing doesn’t really match what you saw on the instruction page. I wonder if Charlie Kaufman films are like that, too, born from screenplays so psychologically intricate and emotionally personal that the finished home his imaginings find on screen doesn’t quite match the blueprint. This film is very much of a piece with its predecessors, but somehow the tone is different. It’s more ceaselessly despairing, with little modulation of the overall grind.
Breaking the Waves, a powerful fable from Danish director Lars von Trier (Zentropa, The Kingdom) is as daunting as it is satisfying. The satisfaction comes from von Trier’s audacious and ever-deepening sense for filmmaking — Breaking the Waves is his most ambitious and skillfully drawn narrative so far, and it offers the pleasure of undertaking an uncertain journey, unsure of where it might all end. That’s also what’s daunting. Breaking the Waves is epic in scope, careering wildly from warm and fleshy love story to grim tragedy to something else entirely over the course of its 158 minutes. It’s a film that demands your rapt attention bit by bit, plumbing ever-deeper corners of the soul and plunging at one point into the abyss. Finally, once it’s over, it will return day by day to haunt its audiences. This is seriously nervy filmmaking.