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Politics, Theory, and FilmCritical Encounters with Lars von Trier$
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Bonnie Honig and Lori J. Marso

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190600181

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190600181.001.0001

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Broken by God

Broken by God

Fate and Divine Intervention in Breaking the Waves

(p.148) 6 Broken by God
Politics, Theory, and Film

James Martel

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses how the figure of God is addressed in Breaking the Waves. In the film, Bess McNeill talks to God, while letting the audience know that God exists only via her own belief. In some way, this invention makes God hers and hers alone. Thus, God produces two contradictory tendencies. First, God produces a sense of fate for Bess, an uncontrollable destiny to which she must submit. Second, God is a means by which she upends that same sense of fate. The metaphor of breaking, in the film’s title, suggests that Bess is broken by God (she is subject to what she sees as God’s unavoidable power). However, that sense of fatedness is itself broken by the way that Bess channels—or invents—God’s voice, thus creating a radical political alternative.

Keywords:   Breaking the Waves, God, Bess McNeill, fate, divine intervention, fatedness, God’s voice, political alternative

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