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A thorny, disquieting fable set in a repressed, insular community on the desolately beautiful Scottish coast. Bess (Emily Watson) is a somewhat simple girl given to extravagant emotional outbursts that dismay her reserved family and neighbors, who nevertheless recognize
her open hearted goodness and selfless devotion to God. She defies convention to marry Jan (Stellan Skarsgard), an oil-rig worker whom the locals regard with suspicion, as they do all outsiders. Jan awakens the sensual spirit that slumbers beneath Bess' strict Calvinist upbringing, and she loves
him with an all-consuming passion. When he's paralyzed in an accident, she devotes herself to his care, and when he asks her to act out a series of lurid sexual fantasies and share with him every sordid detail, she complies. The consequences are simultaneously tragic and quite literally
miraculous. Aggressively eccentric Danish writer-director Lars von Trier's follow-up to his soap-opera spook show THE KINGDOM is a trying, contrary mix of religion and carnality that teeters on the verge of preposterous self-indulgence. But the astonishing cast -- especially Watson (who's a
classically trained actress, not the guileless amateur she appears) and Katrin Cartlidge, who plays her flinty sister-in-law -- gives the melodramatic material the depth it needs to become genuinely wrenching rather than ridiculously overwrought.