Lars Von Trier Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1496 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Film  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Her decision to marry an oil-rig worker, Jan, is staunchly opposed by her family. Though on the surface, Bess fights for her rights and decides to marry Jan against the wishes of her family, internally her guilt-ridden conscience must have been telling her that she did something wrong by disobeying her parents.

Growing up in a family as strict as hers, it is only too obvious that she had religion deeply engraved on her mind. She wanted more freedom and the only way she could get it was by violating certain fixed rules of the community. But she knew this violation would come with heavy fine. Bess' social conditioning made her believe that she couldn't get away easily with this. As Kaplan in her book, Female Perversions, notes, "For a woman... To explore and express the fullness of her sexuality, her ambitions, her emotional and intellectual capacities, her social duties, her tender virtues, would entail who knows what risks and who knows what truly revolutionary alteration to the social conditions that demean and constrain her" (528) She had to pay a heavy price for her expression of freedom in the shape of guilt which later made her do weird things.

When her husband Jan meets a severe accident in which he becomes paralyzed from waist down, Bess feels it is her time to pay the price for her past actions. She desperately wanted to be good but since she had failed once, she did not want to fail again. Bess believes that by disobeying her parents, she had missed an important opportunity to prove that she was good, and now that God was giving her a second chance, she couldn't possibly displease him again. And thus she tries to do everything in her power to make her husband happy. In her pursuit to be considered a good person, she prostitutes herself as per her husband's wishes. She believes she is doing this purely out of love. When Dr., Richardson lashes out at her husband and calls him 'Peeping Tom', she replies "Jan and me have a spiritual contact.... I choose for myself.... To give Jan his dreams.... I don't make love with them. I make love with Jan. And I save him from dying." As ridiculous as her beliefs may sound, we must understand that Bess was doing all this to satisfy herself that she was indeed a good person who cared about someone else so much so that she could even risk her own life.

Similarly in Trier's other award winning movie, Dancer in the Dark, a blind factory worker is presented as a sacrificial animal to comment on women's struggle to match societal definitions of good. In this movie, Selma, the central character is a female factory worker who is suffering from a diseases. She is losing her vision from a hereditary disease and knows that the same can happen to her child. To save her son from this curse, she is working doubly hard. However in the end, she is accused of murder, which results in her death, by hanging. Just like Breaking the waves, the storyline in this film is quite simple. And there are just too many similarities in the characters Bess and Selma to be ignored easily. Both are unfortunate women at the mercy of a horrible fate, both sacrifice their lives for someone they love and both meet a terrible ending. In Zerilli's words, women like Selma and Bess are "the site of sociosymbolic stabilization and destabilization" (Page 1). Selma wanted to be considered a good mother and in this pursuit she risks everything and plays with her own life. Though her character appears saner than that of Bess, she too is suffering from a desire to fit societal image of a good mother. She, like Bess, believes that a woman can be called 'good' only when she forgets herself for the sake of someone else. Like Breaking the Waves, this movie is also a fantasy where leading character "characteristically attempts to compensate for a lack resulting from cultural constraints." (Jackson, 3) These cultural constraints create problems for women who dream of more freedom and then end up as failures because they cannot reconcile their dreams with their social conditioning.

References

Louise J. Kaplan, Female Perversions: The Temptation of Emma Bovary (New York: Doubleday, 1991),

Linda M.G. Zerilli, Signifying Woman (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994)

Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (London… [END OF PREVIEW]

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