Breaking the Waves is a 1996 film directed by Lars von Trier and starring Emily Watson. Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early 1970s, it tells the story of an unusual young woman, Bess McNeill, and of the love she has for Jan, her husband. The film is an international co-production led by Lars von Trier's Danish company Zentropa. It is the first film in Trier's 'Golden Heart Trilogy' which also includes The Idiots (1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000).
Breaking the Waves tells the story of Bess McNeill, who has psychological problems, marries Norwegian oil rig worker Jan, despite the apprehensions of her community and Calvinist church. Bess is somewhat simple and childlike, and has difficulty living without Jan when he is away on the oil platform, where he is scheduled to work for ten days. She prays for his immediate return, and when he returns the next day paralyzed by an industrial accident, she believes it is her fault. No longer able to perform sexually, and mentally affected by the accident, Jan urges her to find and have sex with other men and then tell him the details. Bess slowly begins to believe that what she is doing is the will of God.