Film Movement: Dogme 95
Director: Ole Christian Madsen (but per Dogme 95, his name doesn’t appear in the actual credits)
The first Dogme 95 movie that I watched was Breaking the Waves by Lars Von Trier. Because of that movie, I thought that I looooved Dogme 95. I guess I just loved the movie instead.
For this film, I really did not like it. The found footage technique is my least favorite camera technique in film- maybe because it’s been popularized so much recently. It probably wasn’t as prevalent back then, so maybe this film really stood out. Anyway, the found footage style of filming took me around twenty minutes to get into. Once I got over it, then I could pay attention to the story.
Here’s the story:
The wife of the film has just been released from a mental hospital. However, it is clear that she is still very, very depressed. She is not able to effectively face large groups of people without wanting to cry or feeling anxious about it. She also suspects her husband of cheating on her while she was away (which does end up being correct, despite his initial denial). For a while, it seems as if husband cares quite a bit for his wife. He seems patient, and when he says, “I love you”, it comes across as believable. During one of her episodes, the wife ends up cheating on the husband with a random man from a bar. In the morning, she even calls him to come and pick her up from the location that she is in. He does, but this represents a spiraling of their relationship. He hits her, for the first time that we see on screen. He also rapes her and admits that he cheated on her with her sister. Yet, they continue to try and be together. However, the sweet element from earlier is now removed thanks to the violence. The film ends with the wife having planned a business party for her husband and his colleagues. The party seemed to be going well, but no one wanted to dance with the wife. When the husband’s boss does dance with her, it is to tell her that she should leave the party before she spoils it. She does and goes to write a letter to her husband letting him know that she is leaving him. He comes back during the writing of the letter, and after listening to her read it to him, he kicks her out of the room and throws her belongings out into the hall. She calls her father to come and pick her up. Apparently, while she does that, her husband also calls the sister to come with the children. Both of them show up- but when the sister arrives, she sees that husband and wife have reconciled and she cries. The father consoles her, and the film ends.
I can recognize that there is a message to this film, maybe about how difficult it is for the wife to leave her abusive husband, especially in her current depressive state. Also, it explores how the wife’s depression really effects each aspect of her life and tends to make her unreliable to those around her. She can’t deal with other people and also deal with herself. Despite recognizing a message, I couldn’t stand how abusive the husband was. It was obvious when he was about to explode for the first time and hit her. There was just too much of it. It was actually one of my male professors who pointed out to me how much violence there is against women in films. It makes you wonder. So, anyway, the film also seemed to attempt to humanize the husband, but I despised that considering everything he had done beforehand, especially the rape.
What I did like about the film was the relationship between the wife and her father. It was very sweet, and it was clear that the father cares about her deeply as his daughter. Also, the actress is fantastic. Her facial expressions usually look quite reserved when she is trying to smile, and the audience gets the feeling that it would be a long journey for her smile to be able to reach her eyes.
I watched this on FilmStruck as part of their Dogme 95 collection. Before it, there was an introduction to what that movement was, and it also talked about how sometimes, the manifesto did not always benefit the films. They came to the conclusion that this film is one that did happen to execute it correctly. I disagree. I hated it so much haha. I guess it’s just not my type of film.
But Breaking the Waves will always have my heart.
RT score: 67%.