Broken by God: Fate and Divine Intervention in Breaking the Waves

  • Author(s): James Martel
  • When: 2015-04
  • Where: Theory & Event
  • In “Breaking the Waves,” Bess McNeill talks to God, using her own voice. In this essay, I discuss how Bess’ 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 Bess is at once broken by God (she is subject to what she sees as God’s unavoidable power) but that sense of fatedness is itself broken by the way that Bess channels—or invents--God’s voice, offering a radical political alternative.

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