The End of Desire: Theologies of Eros in The Song of Songs and Breaking the Waves

  • Author(s): Kyle Keefer and Tod Linafelt
  • When: 1998-04
  • Where: Journal of Religion and Film
  • In this paper we intend to use Georges Bataille's reflections on Eros, death, and God as the basis for a comparison between the biblical book, The Song of Songs (The Song of Solomon) and the controversial film by Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves. Following Bataille, we believe that both the biblical book and the film portray desire as a longing for the unification of separate realms, the joining of separate bodies. That which is desired is known to be always at risk, contingent and susceptible to dissolution, never far from the domain of violence, termination, and death.
    The comparison of The Song of Songs and Breaking the Waves, however, introduces something missing in Bataille's analysis of Eros, death, and God. The book and film both provide a more complex understanding of the implications of desire for the divine. That is, they raise the question of what follows if God were not "by definition" immune to risk. What if God were not above the fray of passion, contingency, violence and death? What if the divine were not understood to be perfection, but also bound to the vicissitudes of life, with all of the anguish and ecstasy that implies?

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