Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Denmark/Sweden/France/ The Netherlands/Norway/Iceland, 1996. Argus Film Produktie, ARTE, Canal+, CoBo Fonds, Coproduction Office, Det Danske Filminstitut, Eurimages, European Script Fund, Finnish Film Foundation, Icelandic Film, La Sept Cinema, Liberator Productions, Lucky Red, Media Investment Club, Memfis Film, Nederlands Fonds voor de Film, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Northern Lights, Norwegian Film Institute, October Films, SVT Drama, Svenska Filminstitutet, TV1000 AB, Trust Film Svenska, Villealfa Filmproduction Oy, Vrijzinnig Protestantse Radio Omroep, Yleisradio, Zentropa Entertainments, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Screenplay by Lars von Trier, Peter Asmussen. Cinematography by Robby Muller. Produced by Peter Aalbæk Jensen, Vibeke Windelov. Production Design by Karl Júlíusson. Costume Design by Manon Rasmussen. Film Editing by Anders Refn.
At the same time fascinating and repulsive, Lars Von Trier’s groundbreaking psychodrama is one of the most truly original films you’ll have the privilege to see. Set in a tiny conversative Calvinist village in Scotland, it stars Emily Watson (in the film that made her famous, though apparantly Von Trier originally offered it to Madonna) as a meek, slightly simple church cleaner who falls in love with and marries a Swedish oil rig worker (Stellan Skarsgård). They are blissfully happy until he is seriously injured in a work-related accident and, confined to his bed and unable to move below the neck, he asks his wife in a fit of desperation to enjoy herself sexually with other men and relate her experiences back to him; what he does not know is how very strong her loyalty is, and how far she is willing to go in order to please him. Startlingly upsetting, the film benefits from fantastic performances by all, particularly an eye-popping Watson, plus a freely-moving camera style that uses natural lighting and sound and gives the film a very real feel. Katrin Cartlidge gives her best performance ever as Watson’s best friend and sister-in-law.
The Criterion Collection: #705
Academy Award Nomination: Best Actress (Emily Watson)
Cannes Film Festival Award: Grand Jury Prize
European Film Awards: Best European Film; Best European Actress (Emily Watson); FIPRESCI Prize
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actress-Drama (Emily Watson)
Toronto International Film Festival: 1996